Camboya - Still no labour courts (2012)

Labour courts have still not been set up, despite being provided for in the Cambodian Labour Law (1997). Any legal action has therefore to be taken before a civil or criminal court, which is often a lengthy process (up to eight years in some cases).

The Arbitration Council, a tripartite body created under the labour legislation, has effectively taken the place of labour courts. It is widely respected for its even-handed and impartial investigations and rulings, but employers found to have engaged in anti-union discrimination usually appeal against the Council’s decisions in the provincial courts. Moreover, employers often choose not to apply the Council’s recommendations.

An agreement was signed in 2010 between six major union confederations and federations and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC). It stipulates that in the absence of a collective agreement at a company, the parties shall accept the binding recommendations of the Arbitration Council in rights disputes, and where there is a collective agreement, any dispute regarding its application shall also be the object of binding arbitration. The agreement came into force on 1 January 2011.

One hundred and sixty six of the 191 cases handled by the Arbitration Council in 2011 involved the garment sector. Twenty seven percent of the Council’s decisions were not implemented, including at least eight ordering employers to reinstate unfairly dismissed union leaders.

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