New trade union law causing controversy for Cambodian textile industry

Author: PM editorial | Date: 20 Apr 2016

Legislation is criticised by opposition party and labour activists

A new trade union law which has been passed in Cambodia has drawn fire from activists who say it violates workers’ rights.
 
The controversial legislation includes rules for creating and running trade unions. Workers’ groups and Cambodia’s opposition party have criticised the bill for curbing workers’ rights and their ability to stage strikes.
 
Critics also say it creates overly bureaucratic financial reporting requirements for unions and contains clauses that discriminate against union leaders.
 
"This law is total nonsense. It does not serve the benefit of workers or the Cambodian people," Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers told Associated Press. “Once the law is officially implemented, workers will not be able to freely protest to demand their rights or benefits."
 
Cambodia’s textile industry has repeatedly been in the headlines lately, with factory strikes and fainting garment workers making headlines as the workers’ movement demands wage increases and improvements in working conditions.
 
A first draft of the new law was discussed in parliament last year but was roundly criticised for containing provisions that undermined civil liberties.
 
This month it went through the lower house of parliament with all 67 legislators from the Cambodian People's Party supporting it and 31 legislators opposing it.
 
On the morning it was announced, there were protests and tussles outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. State security guards reportedly punched a unionist in the face and threw a labour leader to the ground.
 
The textile industry is Cambodia’s largest employer, creating jobs for around 700,000 people and exporting US$7 billion worth of goods each year for Western brands such as Gap, Adidas and Nike.
 
Of the international clothing brands, so far only H&M and Tchibo have called on the Cambodian government to introduce a law aligned with International Labor Organisation (ILO) standards and conventions on freedom of association for workers and the formation of unions.