Trade unions in Cambodia may soon face the bitter reality of having their freedom of association curtailed by the State. The Cambodian National Assembly passed the controversial draft of the trade union law on 4 April 2016 despite strong opposition from international communities and protests from trade unions and human rights groups. As a global union, representing twelve million workers, BWI condemns the Cambodia trade union law, which is a major setback for Cambodia in ensuring the right to freedom of association.
We remain deeply concerned with the overall process: the draft of law sat idle for years under review by Ministries controlled by the governing Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Trade union concerns about its draconian provisions, which breach ILO Core Conventions 87 and 98 on the rights to organize, rights to strike and right to bargain collectively. The failure of the Cambodian Government to engage these groups or the wider public show its weak commitment in promoting the workers’ rights.
In its current form the law would give arbitrary powers to the Ministry of Labour to control union administration, the mechanism of voting for union structures, and deciding which organizations unions are allowed to work with. Worker activists with a criminal record or who were deemed to have commit outlawed practices are not allowed to be union leaders. The Government is also entitled to dismiss all forms of organizations including trade unions and workers associations that they are considered a threat to national security. This is a major setback to implementing the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression in Cambodia. We have also witnessed escalating violence and excessive use of security force deployed by the Government in handling protests and strikes, which raises suspicion around their commitment to protecting human rights across the board.
As a global union federation committed to supporting and encouraging workers’ struggles for freedom of association, BWI expresses its solidarity with the civil society organizations and trade unions in Cambodia that have consistently claimed and fought for this right. Along with other members of the international community we will continue walk alongside trade unions and civil organizations fighting to protect the rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Cambodia. BWI will continue supporting workers’ collective action and struggle for their rights in Cambodia amidst repressive political situation and regulation.