Trade Unions in ASEAN Their Status and Role in the Application of CSR Practices with the Example of Cambodia

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Joana Cassinerio


Trade unions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have historically faced discrimination and intimidation, which has impacted how they operate and to what extent they are able to realise various freedoms and rights. Despite the fact that trade unions can fit in a variety of human rights realms, such as the United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the author decided to focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in recognition of the 2016 initiative of the ASEAN Guidelines for Corporate Social Responsibility on Labour. Thus, this paper entitled 'Trade Unions in ASEAN: Their Status and Role in the Application of CSR Practices with the Example of Cambodia' discusses trade unions, and how CSR strategies affect trade union activity and strategies and vice versa. It establishes that countries belonging to the Global South suffer from exploitation at the hands of industrialised countries. While generally, ASEAN has made progress, the remaining lack of convergence of labour laws remains an obstacle for the advancement of labour rights. Moreover, even with national and international human rights frameworks put in place, the region focuses mostly on economic development and growth. A case study of Cambodia's garment sector illustrates that even though collective bargaining rights are formally acknowledged and ratified by the country's government, creating and maintaining a space in which those rights can flourish remains challenging. Abuse and neglect at the hands of states and businesses alike have led trade unions to find their own channels to create awareness about abuses, for instance through exercising pressure on buyers and engaging in cross-regional and international collective trade union activities. Lastly, this paper concludes that new key players must be identified to put forward a positive outlook on the respecting and promoting of trade unions. Findings were entirely drawn from secondary data, such as journal articles, reports and news.


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Cassinerio, J. (2019). Trade Unions in ASEAN: Their Status and Role in the Application of CSR Practices with the Example of Cambodia. Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, 5(1), 85. Retrieved from
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