The Arbitration Council Foundation (ACF) presented the Arbitration Council's achievements and challenges at Social Accountability Forum organised by Project Coordination Office (PCO) and supported by the World Bank to conclude six years of participation under the Demand for Good Governance Project (DFGG). This forum was held at the Intercontinental Hotel on 9-10 September 2014 and attended by 19 state institutions and non-state actors.
Mr. Men Nimmith, Acting Director of the Arbitration Council Foundation, presented some achievements under the DFGG:
From January 2009 to August 2014, the Arbitration Council received 1,296 cases, covering 835,117 workers. From 2008 to 2014, the Council’s case resolution success rate rose from a 68% baseline to a 75% endline. 80% of cases were resolved within 20 working days.
From 2009 to 2013, the average cost per case decreased from US$2,095 to US$1,081. A financial audit at the end of 2013 also demonstrated clean financial management.
Among stakeholders, the level of awareness about the Arbitration Council and the arbitration process increased from 41% in 2010 to 74% in 2014.
The level of confidence in the Arbitration Council’s independence, credibility and effectiveness increased from 72% in 2010 to 85% in 2014. Throughout this time period, no stakeholders reported paying unofficial fees for receiving labour dispute resolution services. Furthermore, the quality of arbitral awards increased; legal auditing by experts showed a rating increase from 77% in 2008 to 79% in 2012.
In addition to these internal improvements, the Arbitration Council also played key role in facilitating and reporting on the garment industry MoU, which was established to improve industrial relations stability between unions and employers in the garment industry.
The challenges, Mr. Nimmith said, in order to continue functioning sustainably, the Arbitration Council required continued support from stakeholders. The industrial relations crisis impacted Arbitration Council Service including increase of caseload by 30% this year compared to the same period from January to August 2013. Complicated issues also went up.
In his opening remarks, H.E. Ngy Chanphal, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior, said that the Arbitration Council’s expedient and transparent dispute resolution services – rooted in national laws and international standards – has helped to improve Cambodia’s investment environment and economic growth by promoting stable industrial relations and credibility for institutional good governance.
“Intervention by the Arbitration Council helps prevent labour disputes, encourages compliance with laws such as the Labour Law and ensures effective management of industrial relations,” added H.E. Ngy Chanphal.
Informed by experience with the Arbitration Council for the past 11 years, H.E. Seng Sakda, Director General of General Department of Labour, representing Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, said that the Ministry is particularly aware of the positive impact that the Arbitration Council has on the economy in helping parties to resolve their disputes without resorting to strike action.
“Less strike action means less conflict, and early and peaceful resolution is healthy for both good employment relationships and for the economy,” said H.E. Seng Sakda.
As a frequent user of Arbitration Council services, Ms. Yang Sophorn, President of Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union (CATU), said, “resolutions issued by the Arbitration Council are independent and unbiased, so the arbitration decisions are acceptable for us.”
Ms. Yang Sophoan added that she wanted the organisation to continue its operations.
Mr. Van Sou Ieng, Chairman of Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), said that the Arbitration Council had two major characteristics; transparency, (demonstrated by the written decisions and publication of arbitral awards), and independence in funding and influence (there has been no government intervention and neither employers nor trade unions have influence over the Arbitration Council).
“Those characteristics, which every citizen has demanded from the courts, now exist in the Arbitration Council,” said Mr. Van.
Mr. Van added that an average 20-day ruling was extremely expedient, even when compared to average international industrial dispute resolution times.
“The effectiveness of the Arbitration [Council] has saved industries, especially the garment and footwear sector; every time there was a strike, the industry lost about US$50,000 to US$100,000 and if we multiply that by the number of cases [per year], we lost about US$200 million per year, which is about 5% of total export volume. The effectiveness of the Arbitration [Council] is really beneficial to the economy”, added Mr. Van.
Mr. Van wrapped up his remarks by saying, “we must continue to help, engage, and participate in arbitration; it will surely serve as a good example for the new coming commercial arbitration.”
Mr. Som Aun, President of National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia (NACC), said that the Arbitration Council is an independent mechanism which contributes to stability of a garment industry that provides jobs to hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and creates competitive advantage for the Cambodian garment industry over others. As Cambodia has yet to establish a Labour Court, the Arbitration Council is an expedient mechanism for dispute resolution, a process that is ultimately even faster than court processes.
“Workers trust this organisation to resolve their disputes; the resolutions issued by the Arbitration Council are acceptable for both employers and workers because we believe that this institution is independent. We don’t need to pay service fees and the resolutions are equitable and fair for parties,” said Mr. Som Aun.
In his closing remarks, H.E. Sor Kheng said, “The Arbitration Council has so far contributed to the improvement of employment practices, including the promotion of Labour Law compliance to reduce actions obstructing factory operations and encouragement of cooperation as well as constructive dialogues to resolve labour disputes.”
The closing ceremony of the Social Accountability Forum was presided over by H.E. Sor Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and Minister of Interior and Acting President of World Bank in Cambodia at 4:30 P.M., 10 September 2014.
The Arbitration Council Foundation has implemented DFGG from June 2009 to September 2014. Funded by the World Bank, DFGG aimed to foster citizen demand for good governance approaches by supporting social accountability and other innovative governance approaches. The Project Coordination Office under the Ministry of Interior, One Window Service Office, the Arbitration Council Foundation, and 13 other non-state actors implemented the DFGG.