The labor laws created in 2016 to protect workers in trade unions in Cambodia have recently been amended. The changes are putting factory workers at higher risk – especially within the garment industry. There are over 800,000 workers in Cambodia who are working in the global fashion industry and based on the amended trade sanctions of the country, the workers are now facing an unpredictable future.
The most recent round of amendments reduced current workers’ rights even more so by limiting the amount of collective bargaining they can engage in as well as by limiting their freedom of association. The original law had set rules and legislation regarding how the formation of unions takes place, how unions are operated and how they are dissolved.
These proposed amendments have been met with criticism from many different groups of people for a variety of reasons. The biggest issue observed in this situation is that relevant stakeholders have not been consulted regarding the proposed amendments of Cambodia’s Legislation on Trade Unions (TUL). There are a total of 10 proposed revisions to this law that require more research and input from stakeholders. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is also involved by creating calls for alterations to the TUL that have not been represented in other proposed revisions of the legislation.
Cambodia is experiencing much global scrutiny on the working conditions of factory employees. With conditions barely considered any better than modern day slavery, any proposed legislation that actually gives workers even less of a voice is going to be met with some harsh criticism. It is undeniable that there is a need to consistently update union legislation to ensure it is representative for the modern-day worker, and that it is in alignment with other minimum standards, which makes this situation even more difficult to comprehend.
When there is a consistent growing pressure to keep up with other countries around the world, and when we have access to so much global information, why would Cambodian officials propose legislative changes that would actually reduce the rights of trade union workers to even less than what they presently have? What would be the benefit in acting in such a way?
The European Union is now involved and have warned the Cambodian government that they have not done enough to protect the rights of Cambodian workers and that this could potentially affect the country’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement currently in place with the rest of the European Union. Before the proposed legislation amendments are up for review in February, it will be important for the Cambodian government to review these policies and make a solid case for amending them before this process is put into motion any further.