Union leaders say a draft law under consideration by the Ministry of Labor is skewed toward factory interests, but Labor Minister Vong Soth said at a forum on Tuesday the law was aimed to help all sides.
Cambodia’s turbulent garment sector is also its main economic driver. Union leaders and workers say the low wages for factory labor has not kept up with the rising costs of living in the country. Government officials say the law is necessary to regulate a wide number of unions, but laborers say they worry the law will not allow them to operate.
At a workshop of union leaders, factory representatives and government officials on Tuesday, Vong Soth said he wanted “all concerned parties” to consider the law and to understand that “this law cannot satisfy 100 percent what the concerned parties have raised.”
The draft law is expected to move to the Council of Ministers for approval later this year, he said.
However, union leaders say the draft of the law will tighten restrictions on organized labor and create harsh punishments for unionists.
“This draft law, from Article 1 to Article 91, has many points to [restrict] the rights and freedoms of trade unions,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers, said the law calls for jail terms up to three years and fines up to $2,500 for labor leaders. It also allows the ministry or the courts to suspend or close down unions.
Despite the misgivings of the trade unions, factory representatives said they approve of the law.
“Employers welcome a trade union movement in Cambodia that is healthy, representative and consolidated,” said Sandra D’amico, vice president of Cambodian Federation of Employer and Business Association.
Vong Soth said the ministry and other government institutions wanted a law to harmonize professional relationships in the industry while at the same time paying attention to the actual situation in Cambodia.