The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal
Training of CAMFEBA members will help end industrial labour disputes, business union says
A MAJOR employers group called on members Monday to improve negotiation to help open communication channels with labour unions and improve industrial relations.
Som Chamnan, executive manager of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), told the Post on the sidelines of a two-day training session for members that it would not be possible for employers to reach agreement with unions if they were not prepared for negotiations.
"We are training them now because we want them to be capable of negotiating effectively on a collective bargaining agreement with unions," he said, referring to an initiative aimed at bringing the more than 1,500 unions in the country under one umbrella.
Under the Kingdom's 1997 Labour Law, employers are required only to negotiate with the union that represents the most workers in the workplace, at least 33 percent of whom pay dues, but the requirement is usually ignored.
However, just three people are required to form a union under the law. According to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, Cambodia has 1,596 unions, most of which operate in the garment sector.
Some factories have as many as 14 unions advocating separately on behalf of workers.
Cheat Khemara, a Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia labour official, said Monday that employers had been "victimised" by union-led demonstrations and strikes during negotiations.
"I think the government should make unions respect the law properly for the sake of peace in the garment sector because ... forcing or putting pressure on employers can negatively affect entrepreneurs' productivity and make buyers lose confidence," he said.
However, Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said it was employers who did not respect the law. They also frequently bribe officials to decide matters in their favour, he added.
"I think that negotiations about the collective-bargaining agreement would not be meaningful even if employers are well-trained because they have not abided by existing laws," Chea Mony said.
A labour court called for in the Kingdom's labour laws has not yet been established.