The Constitution promulgated in 1993 is the supreme law of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Therefore, all laws and decisions of state institutions must be in strict compliance with the Constitution. In addition, every Cambodian citizen must respect the Constitution and the law. (Article 49 of the Constitution) The Constitution defines the rights and duties of citizens, in which the rights of the workers are also recognized by the Constitution. Like other laws, the Labor Law promulgated in 1997 was adopted based on the basic principles, rights and obligations of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. This article briefly discusses the relationship between the Constitution and the Labor Law of Cambodia. What do these two laws have in common?
1. Guarantee of the right to life
Article 32 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to life. This article reiterates that the right to life is a right guaranteed and recognized by the Constitution. In accordance with the principles of the Constitution, the provisions of the Labor Law also aim to guarantee the right to life of workers. For example, Article 104 of the Labor Law (which is now superseded by Article 4 of the Law on Minimum Wage adopted in 2018) stipulates that the wages that workers receive must be at least equal to the minimum wage that must be guaranteed, that is, to ensure that all workers have a decent standard of living in accordance with human dignity. Article 137 of the Labor Law stipulates the maximum full working hours of workers of both sexes, not to exceed 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week, that is, to ensure the health and well-being of workers. In providing job security, Article 74 of the same law requires employers to have reasonable reasons when dismissing their workers. There are other regulations that have been enacted to achieve the guarantee of workers’ right to life.
2. Guaranteeing workers’ right to choose a career
According to Article 36 of the Constitution, Cambodian citizens of both sexes have the right to choose a job that suits their abilities and the needs of society. In accordance with this principle, Article 70 of the Labor Law stipulates that any clause of the contract that prohibits the worker from doing any activity after the contract expires must be void. Article 15 of the Labor Law states that forced labor or compulsory labor is strictly prohibited in accordance with Convention No. 29 on Forced Labor, adopted on 28 June 1930 by the International Labor Organization and the Kingdom of Cambodia ratified on 24 February 1969.
3. Ensuring equal pay for equal work
Article 36, paragraph 2 of the Constitution states that Cambodian citizens of both sexes have the right to equal pay for equal work. The work of a housewife is worth the same as the income from working outside the home. In accordance with this principle, Article 106 of the Labor Law (which is now superseded by Article 8 of Law on Minimum Wage adopted in 2018) stipulates that for work of equal conditions, professional skill and output, wages must be equal to all workers under the Labor Law, regardless of the origin, gender or age.
4. Social Security
Article 36, paragraph 3 of the Constitution states that Cambodian citizens of both sexes have the right to social security and social benefits as stipulated in the law. Article 256 of the Labor Law requires a general regime of compulsory accident insurance. This regime is under the auspices of the National Social Security Fund.
5. Guaranteeing the right to act collectively
In order to promote and protect the rights of workers, the law must recognize the right to assemble, the right to express one’s will and the right to act together. For example, Article 36, paragraph 3 of the Constitution states that Cambodian citizens of both sexes have the right to form and join trade unions. Article 37 of the Constitution provides for the right to strike and to demonstrate peacefully within the framework of the law. In accordance with the principles of this Constitution, Article 266 of the Labor Law (which is now superseded by Article 5 of Law on Trade Union adopted in 2016) states that without prejudice and without prior permission, workers and employers have the right to form professional organizations of their choice for the sole purpose of study to promote the interests and protection of rights, as well as the moral and material interests, both individually and collectively, of the person to whom the organization’s statutes define. Article 319 of the Labor Law states that the right to strike and lockout is guaranteed. This right may be exercised by any party to the dispute in the event of a denial of the decision of the Arbitration Council.
6. Protection of female workers
Article 45 of the Constitution states that all forms of discrimination against women must be eliminated. Article 46 of the Constitution also states that it is prohibited to terminate a woman from work due to pregnancy. Women have the right to maternity leave with paid salary and with the guarantee of seniority in employment and other social benefits. In accordance with the principles of this Constitution, Article 172 of the Labor Law stipulates that employers and managers of the enterprises who employ workers as minors or apprentices under the age of 18 or women to work there must be well-mannered and maintain a decent public image. All forms of sexual abuse are strictly prohibited. Article 182 of the Labor Law states that all enterprises under the Labor Law must allow the women worker to have maternity leave of 90 days off to give birth. After maternity leave and during the first two months after returning to worker, the women workers are only expected to perform light work. Employers are prohibited from dismissing the women during their maternity leave or at the date when the end of notice would fall during the maternity leave.
As shown above, the Constitution and the Labor Law are inextricably linked. In cases where the Labor Law does not resolve the issue of employment relations, the general principles enshrined in the Constitution can be used to resolve the issue.