The International Trade Union Confederation and Education International have strongly condemned Cambodian public authorities’ decision to fire 11 teachers and education officers.
Eleven teachers and education officers in Cambodia, on approved leave, have been fired rather than being reinstated. The teachers and officers had taken leave between 2016 and 2017 with the approval of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS). However, the MoEYS refused to take them back between January and March this year, instead terminating their employment on the grounds of absenteeism. It is suspected that they may have been terminated for political reasons, although normal due process under the law was not respected.
Letter of condemnation
On 20 March, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Education International (EI) sent a letter condemning these actions to the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, H.E. Hang Chuon Naron. In it, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow and EI General Secretary David Edwards deplore the Ministry’s decision to fire these teachers and education officers, all members of the Cambodian Independent Teachers' Association (CITA) for absenteeism. CITA is an affiliate of EI and the ITUC through its membership of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.
The top global trade union leaders note that Cambodian law allows civil servants on placement at other institutions to maintain their seniority, and that they should be reinstated to their original posts at the end of that placement.
The Cambodian Law on Common Statute of Civil Servants allows termination of employment only if it is preceded by an official inquiry by the relevant ministry with representation of the concerned civil servant before the disciplinary council. All the dismissed teachers and officers had applied for reinstatement after their leave and placements. None received any warning, nor were they given access to the disciplinary procedure.
The decision of the MoEYS to terminate the employment of the teachers and education officers was therefore illegal, ITUC and EI stressed.
Contravening ILO Convention
They also reiterated that discrimination “without distinction whatsoever” on all grounds, including political opinion, is strictly prohibited in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 87 on freedom of association. They added that the representative of the Cambodian government had stressed repeatedly before the ILO Committee of Application of Standards during the review on Convention No. 87 in Cambodia in 2016 and 2017, that civil servants, including teachers, enjoyed the same trade union rights without distinctions.
These promises made by the Cambodian government, the global union federations insisted, should not be contested by the MoEYS. “Punishing teachers and trade union leaders for the political opinions they hold will only be detrimental to the political and social stability of Cambodia,” the letter warns.
The ITUC and EI demand that the MoEYS “strictly abide by the domestic laws and reinstate the eleven teachers and education officers to their original posts without delay”, adding that the right of teachers in Cambodia to freedom of expression and association should “be respected without undue interference”.