Labor rights council gets funding boost in Cambodia


USAID grant of $700,000 to be spread across 3 years, and used in outreach efforts and to build awareness about council

By Lauren Crothers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – A new three-year, U.S.-funded project to promote labor rights was launched Thursday afternoon at Cambodia’s independent labor dispute resolution body in Phnom Penh.

In a speech at the launch, USAID Mission Director Rebecca Black said Cambodia’s Arbitration Council has proven itself to be a “promising model to promote workers’ rights and industrial relations” — two key factors in improving the country’s overall economic development.

That hasn’t stopped the council from failing to secure as much funding as it would have liked from this year’s national budget, with In Khemara, deputy director-general of the general department of labor, conceding that budget funds were “still limited” despite Labor Ministry’s efforts.

The grant of $700,000 will be spread across three years, USAID democracy and governance officer April O’Neill told Anadolu Agency, saying that the money would also be used in outreach efforts and to build awareness about the council.

Black added that progress would be reviewed, and discussions held to see how unions could “recognize that they can contribute as well” to keep the council running.

Cambodia’s $2.8-billion garment industry is its biggest, employing about 500,000 workers, but the 12-year-old Arbitration Council also hears disputes from a number of other sectors.

“To date, 2,275 cases have been brought by various industrial sectors including, but not limited to, garment, textile and footwear, transportation, security, brewery, gasoline, cement manufacturing, rubber plantations and electronic devices manufacturing,” said Khemara.

Although the council can rule on disputes, it can’t exactly enforce those rulings.

On Thursday, Sopha San, legal officer with the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said a strike held Wednesday by eight beer promoters who said they were unfairly dismissed would be suspended after the lawyer of the company involved agreed to meet with the workers.

The Arbitration Council had ruled in the women’s favor and ordered ANCO, which distributes Budweiser beer and Evian water, to compensate them, but the company had refused.