News / Economy

    ILO to Publicize Failings at Cambodian Garment Factories

    Cambodian garment workers sew clothes in a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 4, 2007.
    Cambodian garment workers sew clothes in a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 4, 2007.
    Robert Carmichael
    The United Nations’ labor body, the International Labor Organization, said this week that it would revise its program that monitors Cambodia’s garment factories.

    Beginning in January, the ILO will publicly release information on factories that fail to comply with the most important elements of the country’s labor laws. The ILO plans to start those inspections next week, but a variety of hurdles might make it difficult for monitors to carry out their duties.
     
    Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry has grown rapidly over the past decade. Today, it is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and, with over 400,000 Cambodians working in the industry, the nation’s largest formal employer.
     
    The sector’s rapid growth was largely due to a trade preferences deal that allowed duty-free access to the U.S. market. In exchange, exporting factories submitted to an ILO inspection program called Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), which assessed their compliance with Cambodia’s Labor Law and made public its recommendations.
     
    That was part of a carrot and stick approach; Cambodia got access to US retailers, as long as factories adhered to certain working conditions. Hundreds of foreign factories took advantage of the deal.
     
    After the trade preferences deal expired in 2005, the ILO agreed it would no longer publicize the BFC’s findings, although it did continue to inspect factories.
     
    However, as a study by Stanford Law School found in February, without the financial incentives to comply, factories simply ignored the BFC’s recommendations. Conditions for garment workers worsened, and today they earn less in real terms than they did a decade ago.
     
    Jason Judd, the ILO’s technical specialist on the BFC program, says inspectors at the Cambodian program have noted a worrying trend.
     
    “In the last three years we’ve seen the factories’ compliance with the Labor Law has been declining - it’s getting worse. Working conditions are deteriorating. That’s not true in every factory, but on the whole this is what we’ve seen. And we’re returning to an old practice - something we did in the early years of the project - to create some gentle public pressure on factories to improve working conditions,” said Judd.
     
    Judd says inspectors will focus on basic issues such as ensuring emergency exits are unlocked during working hours and workers are paid at least minimum wage.
     
    BFC, which has a purely monitoring role and which cannot enforce compliance, checks around 450 factories. Beginning next week it says its inspectors will assess factories’ compliance with 21 key issues. Factory owners will be given three months to make the required changes, or face being named.
     
    The news has been welcomed by trade unions, some brands, including Sweden’s H&M, and by workers’ rights groups, such as the Solidarity Center, a non-profit affiliated with the U.S.-based labor movement. Dave Welsh, the country director for the Solidarity Center, thinks making the body’s findings public could help put pressure on violators to make changes.
     
    “It’s a step in the right direction, and the opportunities it affords trade unions and workers and worker activists is that surely it’s sort of a naming and shaming aspect to it, but also it really highlights the urgency and calls publicly on those stakeholders who have the ability to make changes, fundamental changes in the industry - namely the government, namely the brands and namely the factories - to engage in a public and proactive manner. And that’s very, very helpful,” said Welsh.
     
    The ILO’s announcement this week drew a lukewarm response from the government. Sat Samoth, a senior official in the Ministry of Labor, told local media he feared that publicly naming factories might drive away brands and cause job losses.
     
    The government’s reaction aside, it is the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC), the industry body representing the more than 400 garment exporting factories, which is most annoyed. Ken Loo, secretary-general of GMAC, says his members were caught by surprise by what he termed the ILO’s high-handed approach.
     
    Ken Loo says GMAC is not opposed to the results of inspections being made public, but is unhappy that the ILO disregarded the industry body and failed to allow it enough time to consult its members.
     
    As a result, GMAC will send letters to its members advising them that they are no longer obliged to let BFC’s inspectors enter their factories.
     
    “Factories are obliged to grant access to BFC monitors when they come for the unannounced audits. What we are doing now is to inform the factories that the association has taken the decision to inform them that they are no longer obliged. Access is granted by the government - by the respective ministries - so we are not refusing access, but we are saying that if they come with the relevant government officials and/or with the official letters indicating specifically that access should be granted, of course we will comply. If they don’t have that, then what we are telling factories is that they are no longer obliged. And they take the decision themselves,” said Loo.
     
    Ken Loo says GMAC will stand by that until it feels its concerns have been taken into account - a position that looks likely to upset the ILO’s planned launch next week.

    You May Like

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9079
    JPY
    USD
    106.10
    GBP
    USD
    0.7636
    CAD
    USD
    1.3106
    INR
    USD
    67.076

    Rates may not be current.