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Apparel companies cite union concerns

Apparel companies cite union concerns

A visiting delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong met with relevant ministries and stakeholders yesterday to discuss the progress of Cambodia’s trade union law and the issues surrounding industrial relations in the Kingdom.

The group, consisting of members from its apparel and footwear committee, was the second delegation to visit Cambodia in the last six months.

Richard Vuylsteke, president of AmCham Hong Kong, said the visit was to follow up on issues raised during the last meeting, such as the implementation of the trade union law once it was passed.

“There are some concerns, not so much with the law, but that it is enforced,” he said.

“Because the primary focus there is that it is so messy – and with so many unions – that they [should] have a rational way to decide within a factory who the real spokespersons are.”

He added that there should be a fixed process governed by law for dealing with labour disputes and that if the process were violated people would be held accountable.

According to Vuylsteke, proper implementation of the law would help reinforce confidence and predictability in the garment sector and maintain Cambodia’s brand image as a manufacturing destination.

“The 2013 and 2014 [labour strikes] are still pretty fresh in peoples’ memories and we’ve been lucky nothing much has happened in 2015, but it’s still a possibility,” he said.

Yesterday’s meeting also touched upon ways of moving the garment sector up the value chain, as envisioned by the Industrial Development Policy, Vuylsteke said, as well as the minimum wage deliberation process.

“The real issue with the wages is that the process is good, but then there is an expectation disconnect with wages always wanting to go up but not productivity,” he added.

The delegation, representing buyers from brands such as Walmart, New Balance and American clothing business PVH, met with the ministries of commerce and labour, as well as national industry bodies Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA).

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