The Constitutional Council of Cambodia (CCC) on Thursday reviewed and approved the draft law on amendments to 10 articles of the Law on Trade Unions amid criticism from local and international civil society organisations.
The amended articles, which were approved by the National Assembly in November and the Senate last week, would be implemented after the King’s promulgation.
“The Constitutional Council of Cambodia unanimously approved the amendments of articles 3, 17, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 54, 55 and 59 of the Law on Trade Unions,” said CCC’s press release on Thursday.
At the National Assembly in November, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said the amendments were made at the request of trade unions and relevant stakeholders.
“It cannot satisfy all parties but at least it is much better than before,” he said.
He noted that the amended articles would ease procedures for registration of trade unions as they would no longer be required to submit reports of their internal activities and finances to the ministry.
The amendments would also allow for the easy dissolution of unions and professional associations after an enterprise or establishment has closed down and has paid wages and benefits of its employees.
However, a day ahead of the CCC session, local and international civil society organisations wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging him to revisit the provisions of the articles and consider recommendations submitted by civil society stakeholders, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation.
“By doing so, the Cambodian government could ensure that legal revisions to the Trade Union Law conform to its obligations under international human rights treaties and international labour conventions,” the letter said.
They noted that amendments in Article 3 failed to widen the coverage of the law to workers in the informal sector, teachers and other public servants. This would deny workers in small businesses with fewer than 10 workers the opportunity to unionise and exercise their rights.
As well, amended Article 17 also infringed on the unions’ rights to determine their internal affairs with the presence of independent auditing mechanisms, which come after 10 per cent of union members or five per cent of union donors call for it.
They expressed their wish to see other articles amended as well, such as articles 5, 12 and 18 of the Law on Trade Unions and articles 20, 21 and 38, which continue to infringe on the right of unions to elect their representatives in full freedom.
“The current environment for labour rights advocates, trade union leaders, and civil society activists is not conducive to ensure a genuine improvement of the human rights and labour rights situation in Cambodia,” the statement said.
They also called on the government to drop all criminal cases against union leaders, workers, and labour rights advocates and stop all forms of harassment against them.
The government, they said, should initiate a fresh round of “inclusive, genuine and transparent consultations around proposed Trade Union Law amendments in January 2020”.
Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment by press time.