Camboya - Union registrations stalled

In April 2014, Human Rights Watch raised concerns that the Cambodian government has sharply limited registrations of unions. Human Rights Watch’s findings are based on official government license registrations since 2011 and interviews with union leaders and representatives.

Independent union federations have raised concerns about a de facto suspension of union registration. This was supported by Labour Ministry data that suggested a dramatic reduction in union registrations in December 2013. Officials could provide no information on new registrations in 2014, but said between 50 and 60 applications were pending. Under Cambodian law, the ability of unions to operate is severely curtailed without official registration.

The slowdown in union registrations may reflect revisions being made to the regulation on union registration, Prakas 21, Human Rights Watch said. Union representatives told Human Rights Watch that ministry officials were not accepting applications for union registration or union leadership changes while registration procedures were being revised. They said the government has not consulted with federations about changes to the regulation.

Recent demands made by government regulators on union federation officials suggest that Cambodia’s Labour Ministry is placing unnecessarily burdensome procedures on union registration and leadership changes. Among these are obtaining a certificate from the Ministry of Justice proving that each union representative has no criminal record, which could be a prolonged process.

Proposed union representatives awaiting this certificate are often at risk of retaliation from factory management, independent unions told Human Rights Watch. Further extending the waiting period increases the risk of harassment and possible firings.

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