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Ministry working on labor laws

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Labor Minister Ith Samheng. Supplied

The draft law on the minimum wage for garment and footwear industry workers will be completed and approved this year, according to Labor Minister Ith Samheng.
The ministry is also working on another draft law concerning labor dispute resolution, he told the ministry’s annual congress yesterday.
“We created the minimum wage draft law for garment and footwear industry workers and it will be spread to another sector next time,” he said.
He did not go into detail about what was in the labor dispute resolution law.
Mr. Samheng said the ministry will try to complete both draft laws this year, but was not sure of the exact date.
It depends on the speed of discussions and “harmonization,” he said, but the tripartite group – with members from unions, factory owners and the government – was in the process of working on the finer points of the laws.
He added that the law on labor dispute resolution will help solve worker issues if the factory, Labor Ministry and Arbitration Council are unable to find an appropriate solution.
The minimum wage law has six chapters and 33 articles.
Unions have taken issue with the minimum wage law for months, saying parts of the law are intended to stifle union-led protests.
Chapter five of the law lays out punishments for people who act in opposition to other articles of the law, which they believe may be applied arbitrarily.
Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union Confederation, told Khmer Times last week that he had not heard any updates on the minimum wage law because the ministry was not inviting him to discussions anymore.
In December, more than 40 unions joined together to ask the Labor Ministry to make changes to 10 articles in the draft minimum wage law, saying it did not cover all sectors and restricted the rights of union representatives in wage negotiations, among a host of other issues.
Mr. Saly said the union had 10 major things it wanted changed or added to the law, including the creation of an independent institution to research wages, the coverage of both domestic and factory workers in every sector and the inclusion of societal statistics and anecdotal information in the calculation of the minimum wage.
“The point that we will strongly discuss is article 9, which says that the minimum wage may vary by region or economy,” he said.
“We cannot accept this because if the minimum wage varies by region, investors will see the opportunity and only invest in areas that are far away.
“It will affect the national minimum wage negotiations, which may decrease from $153 to $120.”
Unions also plan to ask the ministry to remove article 28 of the law, which lays out punishment for individuals or organizations that do research on wages in the country.  
The law says that only the National Council for Wages has the right to study wages in Cambodia and anyone found doing their own investigation will be fined 10 million riel (about $2,500).
“It’s a terrible thing that is unacceptable for the country and the wage law should not have made it because it is similar to the union law, which restricts the freedom of unions,” he said.  
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, echoed Mr. Saly’s concerns and said parts of the law were expressly written to “deprive the rights of workers or union representatives.”
“We have asked the ministry to consider [our complaints] and correct those points,” he said, adding that there were positive parts of the law and that he was heartened to see the government making an effort to set the minimum wage instead of allowing the private sector to dictate the figure.
Mr. Saly, however, was particularly upset with the article detailing punishments for those who protested against any wage set by the government, telling Khmer Times that parts of the law “seem to force acceptance of the minimum wage.”

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