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Officials from the Ministry of Labour check a container of glue at a garment factory in Kandal province last year. A new report has found an improvement in labour standards within the garment industry. Photo supplied

Factory compliance up: BFC

Cambodia's garment factories showed a modest increase in compliance with proper labour standards this year, according to an industry report released yesterday by Better Factories Cambodia (BFC).

The analysis of 393 factories under BFC’s purview, conducted from May 2014 to April 2015, concludes that the NGO’s policy of publicly reporting findings from factory inspections – via their online transparency database – had led to improvements in several areas.

“One year of public reporting has demonstrated important improvements, amongst other . . . [compliance issues, including] severance payments, emergency preparedness and around payment of bonuses,” the report reads.

“Not all the 21 critical issues that are part of the public reporting demonstrate improvements and thus the programme will continue to measure change and work with its partners to ensure impact.”

Compliance in areas publicly reported in BFC’s transparency database improved by an average of 9.16 per cent, the report says.

But aspects not included in public reporting – such as supervisors’ understanding of health and safety guidelines and the presence of first aid boxes in the factory – also rose, by nearly 8.4 per cent.

The improved compliance numbers marked the reversal of a downward trend seen between 2010 and 2013, the report says.

But Joel Preston, a consultant for the Community Legal Education Center, yesterday said that he has not seen much improvement on the ground during the period included in the BFC study.

“Generally, we haven’t seen a lot of improvement . . . we’ve been getting the same complaints we’ve been getting for years,” Preston said, pointing to a recent spate of mass faintings in Cambodia’s garment factories.

“A lot of those [faintings] involved lack of ventilation, chemicals and other occupational hazards.”

While the report shows improvement in many areas, Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, cautioned against looking at it as the beginning of a trend.

“It’s just one report; you need to see a change over time,” he said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly calculated percentages by which compliance at garment factories have improved. According to report data, improvement of compliance in publicly reported areas improved by about 9.16 per cent, and compliance with criteria that are not publicly reported improved by about 8.4 per cent.
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