Legal Matters: Creating a Cohesive Workplace Environment

cambodia trade union law workplace
Workers inspect products at the manufacturing facility of Laurelton Diamonds (Cambodia), a subsidiary of the well known American luxury goods retailer.

“Employees do not work merely for salary. They are contributing their expertise and service to ensure smooth operations within the work place.”

Vo Vanarith, head of the Labour Practice Group at Sciaroni & Associates, helps provide an overview of how to create a cohesive workplace environment in regards to the Trade Union Law:

There are a number of regulations requiring the Employer to cooperate and consult with the staff representative (including trade union and shop steward) on a regular basis. Although, the existing Trade Union Law does not stipulate that the formation of a Trade Union is compulsory in every enterprise, having a Shop Steward is required for those enterprises or establishments where at least eight employees are normally employed.

It is the Employer’s duty to organise a shop steward election together with the preparation of official minutes for submission to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training. The shop steward is elected from among the candidates nominated by either the Union (in those enterprises where a Union has been formed) or from the non-union members who volunteer to be candidates within the framework of each establishment.

Registered staff representatives will be key in the dialogue with the Employer representing legitimate rights and interests of all their members within the enterprise to promote, protect and ensure smooth industrial relations.

The shop steward must be consulted and should put forward a written opinion:

  • on the draft internal regulations according to provisions in the labor law, or
  • on any planned modifications to these internal regulation, and
  • on any planned measure for lay-offs due to a reduction in activities or an internal reorganization of the enterprise

In an enterprise where a Union is not yet established, the shop steward can enter a transitional collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for a term of not more than two years with the Employer. The latter CBA will take precedence over and replace prior CBAs, which have lower benefits to employees.

Where there is only one Union or a Union formed by 30 percent or more of the total employees in a given enterprise (referred to as Most Representative Status: “MRS Union”), that Union can appoint one of its members to be a Union delegate. This union delegate has sole discretion to make a decision and sign a collection bargaining agreement with Employer. Such union delegate can perform the same mission as a shop steward, and is appointed for a two-year term and which may be renewed.

To ensure a good standard of working condition, as well as providing safety to its workers, unions can oversee the enforcement of provisions relating to occupational safety and health. Applicable safety and work remedies can be recommended for work-related accident or occupational diseases prevention.

Unions also have a responsibility to inform the labour inspector of all complaints and criticisms relating to the enforcement of labour regulations. The Union can present to the Employer individual or collective grievances relating to wages, enforcement of the labour code and general labour regulations, as well as collective bargaining agreement applicable to the enterprise.

The Employer is required to inform the staff representative in writing to solicit their suggestions on a prior announcement of the staff reduction and appropriate measures to minimize negative effects on the affected employees.

The MRS Union has a primary duty to engage with Employers in good faith in representing the interests of their members with regard to the terms and conditions of employment and the enterprise’s compliance. This duty of good faith includes an obligation to meet and convene promptly and expeditiously to resolve problems or collectively negotiate the execution of a collective bargaining agreement in accordance with the labour law, trade union and applicable labour standards.

Employers must consider proposals for adjusting grievances or questions arising under the collective bargaining agreement. The Employer’s duty includes making concessions and protection with reasonable consideration. Their obligation also includes cooperation with the MRS Union to give full effect to rights secured through the collection bargaining agreement. For the purpose of the collective bargaining agreement or collective labour dispute resolution, the MRS Union has the exclusive right to negotiate.

Where the enterprise includes members of multiple unions, or unions with minority representation among the workforce, they may also represent their own members in an individual labour dispute, provide literacy training on legal and professional matters and practical advice to its members and other measure deemed necessary for their members.

Obtaining good labor advice and having well-executed employment contracts will help businesses to prevent disputes, save times and costs, and preserve 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 labor matters. In addition, the firm has assisted clients in mediation, arbitration, and settlement of disputes. As such, we are well placed to advise and assist you on labor related matters. For more information, please contact us at [email protected] or visit

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



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