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IndustriALL keeping watch on Cambodia

6 April, 2016IndustriALL Global Union will continue to keep watch on Cambodia to make sure workers’ rights are respected after a controversial new trade union law was adopted by parliament amid violent protests on Monday.

IndustriALL, along with many other parties, has repeatedly voiced its concern to the Cambodian government that the law does not meet core international labour standards, including International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98.

Nonetheless, parliament adopted the law on 4 April with 67 deputies from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) supporting the bill, and 31 opposition members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) voting against. None of the requested alterations made by unions were incorporated into the trade union law, according to Ath Thorn, president of IndustriALL garment affiliate C.CAWDU.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:

“The new trade union law must not be used to undermine workers, but to strengthen them. The fundamental right of workers to organize and bargain collectively is vital to achieving better wages and working conditions in Cambodia.”

Raina has since written to its ten garment union affiliates in the country, saying:

“I reiterate IndustriALL Global Union’s commitment to continue working with all of you, the ITUC, major brands, employers, and trade union rights NGOs, to ensure that the new trade union law will respect the core principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining.”

IndustriALL wrote to the Prime Minister Hun Sen on 17 March, listing a catalogue of concerns about the law which undermines unions’ right to strike, makes unreasonable and debilitating demands on the provision of financial information, and makes it easier to dissolve trade unions. Unions are also concerned that not enough workers are covered under the law.

Alarm bells began ringing when an original draft of the law was made public in October 2014.

The ILO in Cambodia, which helped the government to draft the trade union law between 2014 and 2015, released a statement on 4 April after the law was adopted by parliament, saying:

“While some meaningful improvements were noted in subsequent drafts during that time, on numerous occasions the ILO drew the government’s attention to several key concerns and gaps. These are mainly related to insufficient protection of the right of all workers and employers to freely set up organizations of their own choosing, and of the right of these organizations to decide on their internal matters without interference, as part of Cambodia’s obligations under ratified ILO Conventions.”