The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA), one of EI’s national affiliate, has condemned the fact that the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) has again been denied formal government recognition as a trade union confederation. Made up of seven unions and associations, the CCU represents more than 90,000 workers nationwide.
A Labour Ministry’s letter informed CCU that its application for recognition – which would have granted it more bargaining power – had been rejected, following a similarly unsuccessful application in 2006.
The ministerial letter states that, “after checking the document requesting the licence for [CCU], the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has seen that ... some of this union confederation is not covered under the labour law”.
Governmental recognition needed
CITA President Rong Chhun explained that the CCU’s recognition has been denied because some of its member unions represent educators. CCU affiliates include CITA, whose members’ right to unionise is not protected under the labour law, the Cambodian Intellectuals and Students’ Federation, and the Association of Professors’ Councils.
“The government consistently refuses to grant trade union status to groups representing civil servants,” Rong Chhun added. “It denies the right to collective bargaining to all civil servants, directly and clearly violating the country’s commitments under the ILO conventions 87 and 98.”
He went on to say that the government was deliberately hindering CCU – historically linked to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party – from negotiating working conditions for its members.
Rong Chhun also said that the Government had denied CCU this licence in 2006, and stressed that formal registration is important for non-governmentally aligned unions, as it increases their bargaining power.
Public servants’ bargaining rights must be respected
“A licence is useful to be able to negotiate with employers or to exert collective bargaining rights; otherwise it is easy for the Government to disregard us,” he said, underlining that “independent”unions face many challenges.
Rong Chhun added that the CCU intends to file a complaint with the International Labour Organisation.
“The educators’ international community is in solidarity with our Cambodian colleagues’ struggle,” said EI President Susan Hopgood. “We urge the national authorities to respect public servants’ trade union rights, and ensure quality public services.”