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New pact targets child labour

Workers attach brand tags to items of clothing
Workers attach brand tags to items of clothing earlier this year in Phnom Penh. A new agreement will be signed today to monitor child labour in Cambodia’s garment industry. Vireak Mai

New pact targets child labour

An agreement regarding child labour in garment factories that will be signed today spells out specific consequences for hiring minors, while also saying that only buyers, garment manufacturers and the government will be notified of cases of child labour in factories.

“Confirmed child labour only is reported to [the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC)], factory buyers, and the Minister of Labour,” reads the protocol that is part of the Agreement on Child Labour Protection.

Janika Simon from Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) said yesterday the condition means BFC will not sound alarms every time they find a case of child labour.

“That would mean that every time we found one, we would have to go to the public,” Simon said.

The agreement, which is scheduled to be signed by BFC and GMAC officials this afternoon, reinforces previous laws and memoranda of understanding, while also dictating the reporting processes
and monitoring.

“We want BFC to only report confirmed cases [to buyers],” GMAC deputy secretary general Kaing Monika said yesterday. “We have information from some of our members that BFC notified a buyer and there were consequences, such as the buyer stopping orders.”

Also under the agreement, if BFC monitors suspect a factory employee to be under the age of 15 – the Kingdom’s legal minimum working age for “light duties” and reduced hours – they must first ask the employer. If the employer denies or is unsure, BFC must complete a field investigation – where they must find documentation of the person’s age.

If the employee is found to be underage, the factory or GMAC will be responsible for the investigation’s cost – estimated at $1,125. If no documentation confirming the worker was underage when hired is found, BFC will pay.

Also, if the employee is under 15, the factory is responsible for removing the child from the workplace and paying the wages he or she would have earned working for the factory, as well as education or vocational training fees, until the child turns 15, the agreement says.

George Yoshimoto of shoe giant ASICS, which is a buyer from Wing Star Shoes, where an underage worker was killed last year, said in an email that underage labour is a problem in Cambodia. “The underage worker issue is not [an] uncommon challenge in Cambodia and ASIwCS is working with the factories and ILO Better Factories Cambodia to prevent such cases.”

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