Professional Organisations Under Cambodia’s Trade Union Law

Cambodia’s Trade Union Law aims to protect the legitimate rights and interests of all persons under the scope of Cambodia’s labour laws.

The Trade Union Law (TUL), initially drafted in 2008, was discussed over an eight-year period at numerous consultative meetings involving the tripartite parties: government officials, employers and employee representatives. The final TUL was promulgated on 17 May 2016, despite some criticism and requests for further amendment.

The ultimate goals of this law are to protect the legitimate rights and interests of all persons under the scope of Cambodia’s labour laws, to ensure good work place co-operation, and to promote harmonious industrial relations.

The TUL not only covers the trade unions, but also employer associations. It outlines many significant updates to the body of labour laws, which were originally promulgated in 1997 and amended twenty years later. The TUL specifically focuses on the establishment and recognition of professional organisations, their execution, roles and representation.

The law makes it clear that all workers and employers have, without any distinction whatsoever, the rights to form their own professional organisation of their own choice for the exclusive purpose of studying, promoting the interests of and protecting the rights of its members. Additionally, it represents the moral and material interests both collectively and individually of the persons covered by the organisation’s statutes.

The TUL specifies that professional organisations of workers are called “Workers’ Unions” and the professional organisations of employers are called “Employers’ Associations”. The TUL prohibits the combination or intimidation between the worker’s union and employer association.

Both worker’s union and employer association must always remain as autonomous entities. However, unions and associations can consult each other regarding the study, research training, occupational promotion, and protection of their moral and material interests. All workers and employers – regardless of race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, social origin or health status – have freedom to be a member, not to be a member or to withdraw membership from the union or employer association at anytime.

Workers and employers are at liberty to form their own organisation without any prior authorisation or restriction. Once formed, union and employer’s association must register with and seek recognition from the Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training (MOLVT), or the Provincial Department of Labour relating to the location of the union or employer association, in order to legally enjoy the respective rights and protections.

Furthermore, the TUL imposes a regulatory framework with several requirements that must be met before a union or employer’s association can receive registration approval from the Ministry or department.

The Union has three characteristics: 1) a local union must be comprised of at least 10 workers of a given enterprise or establishment; 2) a union federation must be comprised of at least seven registered local unions; and 3) a union confederation or a coalition of union federations must be comprised of at least five registered union federations.

The Employer Association has two requirements: 1) an employer association must be comprised of at least nine enterprises or establishments; and, 2) an employer federation must be comprised of at least six registered employer associations.

Once the organisation is formed, one or all of the union or employer association management (including the president, vice-president and/or secretary) must directly submit applications for registration to be considered for certification.

The following supporting documents must be provided to the MOLVT:

  • a Statute of Association
  • administrative regulation
  • a name list of leaders, managers and those responsible for the administration
  • an address where financial books and records are to be kept
  • an affidavit guaranteeing that its bank account detail will be provided within 45 days following receipt of registration
  • minutes of an election
  • a list of members’ names as per quota required

Upon receiving an application, the MOLVT must respond within 30 working days. If the Ministry makes no response or request for an extension during the time period, the application for registration must be considered registered. The MOLVT must make a written notification the reason for extended time for the registration within the 30 days, during which the union or employer association whose application has been time extended for 30 days from the day of notification is to correct and complete the gap, otherwise the application will be automatically denied.

Those unions or employer associations registered before the effect of TUL will continue to be valid until the end of their mandate. However, in order for the approved registration to be valid, each union or employer association must submit their annual financial statement and annual activity report by the end of March of the following year of the enforcement of the TUL. In order to continue in good standing, pre-existing unions and employer organizations must re-register their association, per the procedure outlined above.

This article was written by Vanarith Vo, the head of labour at Sciaroni & Associates.


Vanarith Vo, Associate. Vanarith, Head of Sciaroni & Associates Labour Practice Group, brings broad experiences to the firm.  He has advised clients on labour and HR, commercial law, and issues pertaining to legal compliance and corporate matters. A recipient of awards from local and international competitions, he earned a Master of Law from the University of Lyon 3 and the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), an LLB from Pannasastra University, and a BA in Economics from Cambodian Mekong University. Vanarith speaks English, Khmer and conversational Thai.

Sciaroni & Associates Labour Practice Group

Obtaining good labour advice and having well-executed employment contracts will help businesses to prevent disputes, save times and costs, and preserve their reputation. Sciaroni & Associates has been heavily involved in the development of this important sector since its early stages and is a leading and trusted authority on labour matters. In addition, the firm has assisted clients in mediation, arbitration, and settlement of disputes. Our Labour Practice Group has authored textbooks of the subject for Cambodian lawyers and students. As such, we are well placed to advise and assist you on labour related matters. For more information, please contact us at [email protected] or visit


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