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Legal Protection of the Union's Freedom 

CLEC - 2011-06-10

The "Union" is the professional organization of workers that recognized by article 266 of Cambodia labour law. According to article 266, workers who worked in every enterprise or establishment in the Kingdom of Cambodia have, without prior authorization, the right form and join union. The union's rights and freedom are fundamental for workers in respect to education/training, enhancing the interests, and protection of their rights as well as their spiritual and material interests of individuals who are under the statute determined by the organization. But, in order to enjoy the rights and benefits recognized by this law, the founders of those professional organizations must file their statutes and list of names of those responsible for management and administration, with the Ministry in Charge of Labor for registration.

In addition to the general knowledge, the Community Legal Education Center would raise the topic on "Legal Protection of Union's Freedom" in which the protection against the "discriminations and interferences" on freedom of trade union are presented in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

In what contexts are the protection against the "discrimination and interference" with the rights and freedom of the union?

The protection against discriminations: The Kingdom of Cambodia's Labor Law, Article 279 says: "Employers are forbidden to take into consideration [the] union affiliation or participation in union activities when making decisions concerning recruitment, management and assignment of work, promotion, remuneration and granting of benefits, disciplinary measures and dismissal [or reject any training]. This is a protection of discrimination against the union's rights and freedom.

The ILO convention No. 98 Concerning the Application of the Principals of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively, Article 1 (1) says: workers shall enjoy adequate protection against the acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment. Therefore, employers cannot suspend or dismiss a union's leader, activist or worker for any reason concerning their activities in organizing a union or participating in any union's activities.

According to articles mentioned above, the unions shall enjoy their rights and freedom in carrying out their activities that enhance the rights and interests of workers, and to ensure the application of the rights and freedom in demanding for the protection of discrimination against the union according to the existing laws and regulation.

The protection of interferences: Cambodia Law, Article 280 says: "Acts of interference are forbidden. For the purpose of the present article, acts of interference are primarily measures tending to provoke the creation of worker organizations dominated by an employer or an employers' organization, or the support of worker organizations by financial or other means, on purpose to place these organizations under the control of an employer or an employers' organization."  The ILO convention No. 98, Article 2 also provides the same protection.

The ILO Convention No. 87 Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of Right to Organize, Article 3 says:

  1. Workers' and employers' organizations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programs.
  2. The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.  

Article 4 of the ILO convention No. 87 also states that: "Workers' and employers' organizations shall not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority."

According to the substance of the law, workers' organization shall have a full protection against "interferences" by employers or agents or members of the enterprises or management process or administration.

Apart from this, no workers' organization or unions have been suspended or dissolved by any competent authorities because both ILO convention and Cambodian Laws and regulations regarding the labor set out very strict provisions which do not allow the competent administration to suspend and dissolve the unions.

The ILO convention No. 87, Article 8 (2) says: "The law of the land shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, the guarantees provided for in this Convention." This means that the State parties shall not interfere with the practice of the freedom of the union by suspending or dissolving any union's organization; with the association of union confederations; with the process of drafting their constitution and regulation; the state parties shall not fail in protection against the acts of interferences.

Therefore, an employer cannot dismiss any employee for any reason that workers participate in election, establishing a union or in other union activities, whether the reason for dismissal does not show a direct link, but with any reason behind it. Also, the employer cannot interfere with the union affair by poking their nose into union's administration or activities.

All in all, both national and international laws provided widely rights in forming a union and carrying out their activities. Furthermore, it may create an environment of threat and intimidation which damage the interests in the growth of the union activities, if any measures or acts are against the principals of the freedom of union.

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