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Plan to ‘end factory strife’

A new programme has been launched to improve industrial relations between garment factories and unions.

The initiative announced yesterday was put together by the International Labour Organization (ILO), European clothing giant H&M, and a number of other partners.

The initiative hopes to “improve the unions’ ability to genuinely represent workers” by offering training to both factories and unionists, and to “improve communication and negotiation skills,” the announcement read.

According to ILO national project coordinator Veyara Chhieu, the training will include education on labour laws to equip stakeholders "with all these necessary skills so they can engage in more meaningful collective process of negotiating agreements”.

The garment industry has been hit by a series of strikes in the past year, and Joel Preston, a consultant with the Community Legal Education Centre, was sceptical that the programme would catch on.

“Previous examples of similar efforts have failed pretty miserably. I think it would be fantastic, but I don’t think it’s very likely,” he said on Friday.

Preston pointed out that to make the new industrial-relations programme work, unions and factory owners would have to act in good faith.

“That’s a reflection of factory owners wanting and needing to make a profit at almost any cost, and the first ones to bear that cost are almost always the workers,” he said.

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