Union Registration Process Rife With Obstacles

Unionists visit striking NagaWorld workers in Phnom Penh on January 7, 2022. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)
Unionists visit striking NagaWorld workers in Phnom Penh on January 7, 2022. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)

In the span of three days, 23-year-old Phon Sao went from forming a union to unemployed. 

The Bright Flushing factory worker in Takeo province contested the union’s first election on October 29, but saw two unknown people at the election taking photographs and decided to withdraw.

Two days later she was signing resignation documents under duress.

“I asked them for a reason. But they didn’t tell me the reason,” she said on Thursday. 

The case of Sao and Workers’ Rights Protection Union of Bright Flushing at the Takeo factory was documented by labor rights NGO Central to illustrate long-held concerns over the formation of new unions on the factory floor, including use of the controversial Law on Trade Unions to install potential bureaucratic hurdles.

In the past 14 months, at least seven factory-level unions have reported obstacles in registering new unions under law. Union leaders say they have been fired or their contracts not renewed to block union formation, and in some cases the Labor Ministry has dragged its feet on processing registration documents.

These concerns are exacerbated, say unions and labor advocates, when one takes into account alleged union-busting attempts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at both NagaWorld casino and other industries.

The union at Bright Flushing was formed to advocate against working on holidays and weekends, said Sao. But since her departure from the factory, a number of founding members have quit the union. 

Central provided VOD with documentation of the case — which includes intimidation of union founding members, alleged forced resignations of the union president and other members — and increased harassment after staff from sports brand Puma met with the workers to discuss issues with union formation.

Yum Oun, who was voted union secretary at Bright Flushing, said the union was formed to make sure workers got sick leave and because the factory was routinely violating the Labor Law by terminating workers.

“A lot of staff were fired. They have no job. I don’t when they can return back to work,” she said.

Central also documented six other cases of union formation in the last 14 months, all showing instances of bureaucratic delays, intimidation of workers and termination of union leaders and found members. Below are two examples showing similar patterns in the union formation process at I Tao Pet Supplies and ML Intimate Apparel.

Source: Central
Source: Central

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