The Government of Cambodia is pushing to complete the trade union law—the Law on Unions of Enterprises—in the coming weeks. The law has been in the works since 2011 and has undergone numerous revisions. The current draft contains 90 articles and stipulates that new unions must include at least 20 percent of a workplace’s employees and grants the Ministry of Labor the license to authorize the formation of any new unions. The draft legislation takes implicit aim at independent unions which would languish under the new law due to prohibitive registration requirements and limitations of union autonomy and activities. The draft measure comes amid policies creating more favorable benefits for the countries 700,000 workers.
The ruling party, the CPP, controls 55% of the National Assembly where a simple majority is needed to pass a bill into law and there is little doubt that this bill will surpass the needed threshold. As such, we expect push-back by labor groups, though they are unlikely to muster sufficient support, at least at this juncture, to stage protests with any impact without backing by the opposition block, the CNRP. Still companies in labor intensive industries are encouraged to remain vigilant over the medium term, particularly pertaining to the response of international labor groups which are increasingly involved in Cambodia’s labor movement and may be a wild card on the issue. Moving forward, two potential flash points on the horizon would be when the law is likely to be passed later this month and when the law goes into effect. This is a shot across the bow and trade unions will not let it go into effect without a response that is sure to be heard. Garment and footwear manufacturers please take note.