Melisa R. Serrano and Veasna Nuon

Unions and development in Cambodia

Serrano and Nuon track and examine the latest developments and the new and continuing challenges that unions face in Cambodia.

The young trade union movement in Cambodia has gone through difficult challenges, including a tough political environment and a conflict-ridden industrial relations system, as it struggles towards transforming itself into a legitimate movement that genuinely represents workers' interests. But it is noteworthy that, from the time the authors' book Building Unions in Cambodia: History, Challenges, Strategies was published in 2010, positive developments have had taken place within the movement, including: the gradual emergence of worker activism, the existence of more union structures and processes that promote internal democracy, improved capacity in negotiation and social dialogue, and organizing initiatives in the informal economy. In recent years, the increasing role of buyers and trade unions in improving working conditions has been noted as well. Nonetheless, due to mutually reinforcing economic and political factors, a highly fragmented trade union movement endures in the country. 


Unions and Development in Cambodia tracks and examines these developments and the new and continuing challenges that unions face. It underscores that despite the existence of an institutional framework that promotes a labour rights regime, which has been facilitated by the US-Cambodia textile trade agreement, the EU's Everything But Arms scheme, and the Better Factories Cambodia, paradoxically, industrial relations remain conflict-ridden. But, as the growth and dynamics of the labour movement are linked with Cambodia's economic growth and political landscape, trade unions' struggle towards independence and relevance will continue to intensify in the coming years. The book reflects on how trade unions may be able to meet this goal. 

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