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Cambodia’s union law stirs debate

There is an ongoing debate over whether Cambodia’s new trade union law is good or bad for the country. Some say it is bad for the country’s poorly paid workers and while others ague the law is necessary for business growth and that without the trade union law, foreign investors will not come to do business.

The law says workers and employers shall enjoy the right to form and join professional organizations of their choice but it demands excessively high requirements for union registrations and restricts union autonomy and activities. The law also restricts who can be selected as union leader. Anyone prosecuted by the court cannot become a leader of a union. But a number of independent union leaders have been prosecuted in trials that were politically motivated and so would be ruled out of senior positions in unions.

A union is required to collect support from at least 50 per cent plus one of its members in order to satisfy the meeting quorum to decide on whether to strike or not. With factories and workers spread over a large area, and poor communications infrastructure, the logistics of such a task would be considerable.

Last year there were 3,166 unions for the more than five lakh workers employed in the country’s 557 garment and textile exporting factories and 58 footwear factories.