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Record Year for Arbitral Cases

Cam McGrath / Khmer Times Share:
Members of an arbitration panel hear a dispute. Photo: Courtesy Arbitration Council

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The independent dispute resolution body established to help workers and employers in Cambodia resolve labor disputes had its busiest year ever in 2014. 

The Arbitration Council saw 361 cases last year, a 27 percent increase over the previous year, according to its newly-released 2014 annual report.
“In 2014, the Arbitration Council reached a milestone, resolving the highest caseload in the history of its labor dispute resolution work,” Kong Phallack, board chairman of the Arbitration Council Foundation (ACF) said in the report’s preface.

The Council, which plays a role in resolving collective labor disputes, processed 2,370 individual issue claims referred by the Ministry of Labor last year, resolving 1,380 claims and issuing decisions for 696 claims. The remaining 298 claims from 45 cases were unsuccessfully resolved due to case closure, it said.

Surge in Cases

“Despite this surge in caseload, the [Council] was able to maintain a 73 percent resolution rate, ensure parties to resolve matters through conciliation and arbitration processes, where appropriate,” the report said.

Ann Vireak, Manager of Training and Communications at the Arbitration Council Foundation, said the increasing caseload shows workers and employers are increasingly turning to conciliation (instead of strikes) to settle differences.

“The number of cases referred to the [Arbitration Council] is a positive indication that the parties in dispute are following the national labor dispute resolution process and indicates a growing trust and confidence in [the Council’s] capacity to handle the cases.”

Garment Sector Disputes

The Arbitration Council, formed with funding from the International Labor Organization in 2003 and supported by donations, has heard more than 2,000 cases in its decade of operation and issued 1,456 arbitral awards – 90 percent of them in the garment sector. 

This is hardly surprising, said Ms. Vireak, as the sector – which employs about 700,000 workers – is one of the Kingdom’s biggest and most unionized. 

“The sector can be characterized as one of the most active in its industrial relations engagement, including in areas such as unionization and interaction with formal labor dispute resolution processes,” she told Khmer Times. “The vast majority of the Kingdom’s approximately 3,000 registered trade unions have been formed in this sector.”

While the Arbitration Council’s decisions are non-binding, nearly three-quarters of cases are resolved, with an average resolution time of 17 days, according to its data.

Issues brought to the Council in 2014 included disputes related to: income increases and job security, entitlement payments, non-discrimination against union members and the reinstatement of workers (Additional reporting by Srey Kumneth).

The number of cases received by the Arbitration Council has grown steadily since it was established in 2003. Source: Arbitration Council

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