Allow me to offer my personal opinion on the letter “All employers should respect human rights” (August 30).
I can see, based on my direct experience in the Cambodian garment industry, that it is plagued by undeserved bad publicity over labour and human rights issues. Without making inferences, the public can see from the letter a clear accusation that employers in this industry do not respect human rights.
It’s very convenient to talk about labour or human rights violations in regard to coverage of strikes in the industry, while the true picture of the dispute is not fully understood. Whichever strikes, be it as a result of inter-union conflict, artificial demands for the sake of blackmailing employers, demands for unreasonable benefits, demands that violated management prerogatives in running their own business, demands to reinstate worker or union leaders who committed serious misconduct, and so forth ... they are wrongly perceived as strikes against human rights violation or against poor working conditions. Yet, it’s even sadder that when those strikes are illegal because they do not follow the regulated labour dispute resolution procedure, no human rights group has ever condemned those acts. Respect for law and human rights should be for all.
Feeling for the underdog has always put the Cambodian garment industry in a disadvantageous position. As a Cambodian, I strongly oppose any violation against my Cambodian workers, but fair judgment and treatment should be given to both parties if we are to attract more foreign investors to grow our economy through employment generation, technology transfer, managerial and technical skills, foreign exchange, etc.
Union multiplicity, though some are operating ethically and professionally, is to the detriment of this industry growth, and the industry has so far been a victim of freedom of association, a borderless freedom in the current context. Even an LDC, Cambodia has tries so hard for continuous improvement in the garment sector until the World Bank survey rated Cambodia as having “moderate to good” labour standards ranking ABOVE Thailand, China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Finally, it is important to gain full comprehension about the industry, so that we can have a balanced view. I wish the much-mourned Neil Kearney of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation would still be alive to share his view over the many facts, so that those who usually mislead the public could simply shut up.
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