A Change of Guard

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Wednesday 30 December 2015

Unions talk draft with parties

Unions talk draft with parties
Wed, 30 December 2015 ppp
Vong Sokheng

Union officials attend a meeting about the controversial trade union law yesterday at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Trade unions yesterday concluded meetings with Cambodia’s two main political parties about the draft trade union law as the parties tentatively gear up to hash out the controversial legislation this week.

A working group was announced earlier this month composed of five members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and another five from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to address criticisms from unions that the law, which has yet to pass parliament, would dramatically reduce their freedom to organise.

Pen Panha, head of the CPP’s wing of the group, told reporters the CPP had met yesterday with some 33 trade unions at the National Assembly.

“We may set December 31 as the date for the meeting between the special working groups from the CPP and CNRP to discuss the issues raised by the trade unions,” he said.

“We collected their ideas to discuss them later.”

Trade unions also held a similar meeting in parliament on Monday with the CNRP.

Son Chhay, head of the CNRP’s wing of the working group, confirmed the meet, throwing his weight behind the unions’ criticisms of the law.

“The ideas of the trade unions are grounded in law and we collected and supported them,” he said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said that the law remained riddled with clauses that would reduce unions’ freedom of assembly.

He specifically cited requirements for trade unions to report their finances to the government, minimum requirements for the number of people to create a union, and a minimum quorum of 50 per cent plus one member for a union to decide to go on strike.

“We hope that the CPP and CNRP will remove some articles of the draft law that we are concerned about,” said Thorn.

“We requested 12 points.”

While the CNRP has already shown signs it backs the unions’ criticisms, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told reporters the CPP had made no such decision yet, although he defended the financial reporting requirements.

“The government’s restrictions are there because we want to make sure there is no money from terrorists or money laundering flowing due to weaknesses,” he said.

“We made the law in order to strengthen rule of law, democracy, and ensure political stability and public order – it is not aimed at restrictions.”

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