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Unions, advocates call for Union Law revisions

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Unionist Pav Sina speaks at a conference on the controversial Union Law yesterday. Pha Lina

Unions, advocates call for Union Law revisions

Trade unions and rights groups yesterday called on the government to amend or clarify sections of the recently passed Union Law, citing increasing bureaucratic hurdles to register new factory-level affiliates.

The Trade Union Law was heavily criticised prior to its passage in May for not conforming to local laws or International Labour Organization conventions. Six months later, unions insist that concerns raised prior to its passage – particularly heightened barriers to union creation and cumbersome new financial reporting requirements – are now ground realities.

“After the law was passed, we have tried to register local unions, and they require so many documents to be given to the ministry. It is very difficult,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

Sina was speaking at a symposium in Phnom Penh – organised by advocacy groups Solidarity Center and the Community Legal Education Center – to assess the Trade Union Law’s implementation thus far.

While it was difficult for workers to form new unions even with his federation’s help, Sina said it was close to impossible for employees who lacked assistance from bigger groups to organise.

Agreeing with Sina, Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said the annual reporting requirements were another big concern among unions.

Much like the NGO Law, the Trade Union Law requires unions to submit financial and activity reports annually. Failing to do so, the law empowers the Labour Ministry to file a lawsuit in yet-to-be-established labour courts that could lead to penalties including revocation of the union’s registration.

“Many don’t have money to buy a [required] union stamp – how will they do financial reporting?” said Sophorn, adding that there needed to be a softening of the requirements.Separately yesterday, the Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program was officially extended through 2019 after stakeholders – the government, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and the International Labour Organization – signed a new memorandum of understanding.

Esther Germans, BFC’s program manager, said the new agreement would be a continuation of the existing mandate, but will look to better the government’s inspections and enforcement capacities.

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