Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

Constitution and labour law provide for freedom of association and allow workers and employers to join and form unions regardless of their gender, age and nationality.  This right is regulated by the labour law.

Workers and employers have, without distinction whatsoever and prior authorization, the right to form professional organizations of their own choice for the exclusive purpose of studying, promoting the interests, and protecting the rights, as well as the moral and material interests, both collectively and individually, of the persons covered by the organization's statutes. The trade union freedom of individuals also implies freedom of not joining a workers' union or employers' association and freedom of withdrawing at any time from the organizations joined earlier.

Article 36 of the Constitution provides that "Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to form and to be member of trade unions". The Labour Law regulates the formation of trade unions and provides that "all workers, regardless of sex, age, nationality are free to be a member of the trade union of their choice".

Union members are free to elect their representatives and formulate their work program. They may draw up their own statutes and administrative regulations, as long as these are not contrary to laws in effect and public order.

The unions must get registered with the Ministry by filing their statutes and list of names of those responsible for management and administration. A trade union is considered registered if the Ministry of Labor does not reply within two months after receipt of the registration form. Filing of registration form has to be done again in case of any change in statutes and administration.

An employer is not allowed to interfere in a trade union's affair and to support a union that is under the control of the employer or an employer's organization. Employer may deduct union dues from the wages of the members only after their written consent. Discriminatory behavior is prohibited for the employer on the basis of union affiliation or participation in union activities.

Sources: §36 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, of 21 September 1993 (as amended in 1999); §266-278 of the Labour Law, promulgated by Royal Order No. CS/RKM/0397/01 of 13 March 1997 (amended in 2007)

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Right to collective bargaining is recognized and regulated by Labour Law. Collective bargaining is a written agreement between a group of employees and one or more employers about wages and working conditions. A CBA usually provides better benefits to the worker than those provided in the law. If a CBA has provisions which are less favourable than those provided under the law, it cannot be enforced.

A CBA may be concluded for definite or indefinite time period. The duration of a CBA signed for definite time period may not exceed 3 years. A CBA of indefinite term may be cancelled by giving a cancellation notice of one year.

While signing a CBA, employees are generally represented by a union when negotiating a CBA. The union must be representative of employees in that enterprise. The Ministry of Labour gives an official decision as to whether a union is representative. In case there is no union in a workplace, shop stewards may negotiate a CBA with the employer however such CBA can't be signed for a term of more than one year,

Collective agreements also specify their scope of application. This can be an enterprise, a group of enterprises, an industry or branch of industry, or one or several sectors of economic activities.

In order to bargain collectively, employer must agree to the reasonable rules for bargaining and respond to proposals made by the union in a reasonable way. Employer must also provide reasonable resources and information to unions involved in collective bargaining.

A collective bargaining agreement, written in khmer, must be registered with the Ministry of Labour and posted in the workplace.

Sources: §96-101 of the Labour Law, promulgated by Royal Order No. CS/RKM/0397/01 of 13 March 1997 (amended in 2007); Prakas on registration procedure, advertisement, and observation on the collective bargaining agreement (287/2001)

Right to Strike

Right to peaceful strike is recognized under the Constitution  and is regulated under the Labour Law.

Labour law defines strike as a stoppage of work (by the group of workers) that takes place within an enterprise or establishment for the purpose of obtaining the satisfaction for their demand from the employer as a condition of their return to work. Peaceful strike is allowed only after all the methods of dispute resolution (negotiation, conciliation and arbitration) fail.

Members of union must approve strike by secret ballot and inform the employer and the Ministry of Labour at least 7 days prior to the proposed date of strike. Strikers are not allowed to force other workers to participate in strike and they have the right to return to work without any punishment once the strike is over.

Strikers must not threaten non-strikers. Strikers cannot stop other employees who want to go to work during a strike from doing so. Employers are not obliged to pay the workers on strike. Cambodian law maintains a list of essential services where minimum service must be maintained if strike action is initiated. The Labour Law requires employers not to punish the striking workers and prohibits hiring of replacement workers.

Strike is considered illegal if it is not peaceful and does not comply with the provisions of labour law. It is illegal to start strike in order to force an employer to revise a CBA or arbitral award which is still in force. Only courts can declare a strike as illegal.

Employers also have the right to lockout workers. This right is subject to the same rules and restrictions as the right to strike.  If an employer conducts an illegal lockout, he is required to pay the employees' salaries during the lockout along with penalties.

Sources: §37 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, of 21 September 1993 (as amended in 1999); §318-377 of the Labour Law, promulgated by Royal Order No. CS/RKM/0397/01 of 13 March 1997 (amended in 2007)

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • Labour Law, promulgated by Royal Order No. CS/RKM/0397/01 of 13 March 1997 (amended in 2018)
  • Prakas on Overtime Work of Normal Work Hours (80/1999)
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