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Committee to give garment workers a boost

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Garment workers at Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone. Hong Menea

Committee to give garment workers a boost

A UN-backed advisory committee – charged with ensuring labour rights and adequate working conditions in the Kingdom’s export factories producing garments and similar items – has reiterated commitment to making unremitting efforts towards achieving its primary objective, and improving competitiveness and productivity in the industry.

The Project Advisory Committee (PAC), of the International Labour Organisation- (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) programme, comprises representatives from the Royal Government of Cambodia; the ministries of Labour and Vocational Training, and Commerce; and various worker federations and confederations, as well as employers from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

PAC said in a statement dated July 7 that it would continue to engage with partners to improve the overall welfare of workers in the Cambodian garment, footwear, travel goods and bag industries.

It said it would devote a sharper focus on “further developing factory capacity for sustained compliance to maintaining productive, decent and sustainable jobs for our Cambodian labour force”.

“We, the PAC members of [the BFC] programme, would like to acknowledge the joint efforts and achievements made together with BFC during the Covid-19 pandemic to support the garment sector during [these] challenging times.

“We remain committed to supporting the [BFC],” the PAC said, noting that the programme’s approach includes a range of activities from “cultivating social dialogue through worker-management committees, to offering factories tailored advisory services to help them solve their own labour law challenges or using public reporting to spur improvements in factory working conditions and workplace environment across the industry”.

“The PAC is committed to preventative Covid-19 measures in the garment sector, and to work together on the recovery to address consequences from the pandemic. For this, we commit to supporting an environment where employers and worker representatives can increasingly solve issues through effective and mature social dialogue,” it said.

The committee noted that the pandemic rocked the Cambodian and global industrial sectors, and that a healthy recovery would require all round action.

“We are committed to continue engaging with the industry stakeholders, including manufacturers and buyers to work for an industry where a culture of good performance and sustained compliance is embedded in the sector.

“In this regard, we call for joint action from all industry partners in Cambodia and internationally to support the Cambodian garment sector to sustain the industry and the lives of the workers throughout the global pandemic,” it said.

GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo told The Post in February of the government’s plans to expand the BFC project’s coverage to include travel goods and bag factories.

He said: “This is a clear indication of the government’s commitment to ensure that exporters in these two sectors uphold high compliance of local labour laws and international labour standards.

“GMAC is a signatory to the MoU [memorandum of understanding] with BFC, as are the [labour and commerce ministries]. We strongly support this initiative.”

According to the ILO, the BFC project involves workers and the government to improve working conditions and sharpen the garment industry’s competitive edge. Today, there are 557 factories with 614,242 workers and 59 brands and retailers included in the project.

The Kingdom exported $17.21537 billion worth of goods last year, up by 16.72 per cent from $14.74874 billion in 2019, the Ministry of Commerce said in its 2020 annual performance report.

Broken down by sector, garments ranked first in exports, reaching $7.42028 billion, down 10.24 per cent on a yearly basis, followed by footwear ($1.11673 billion, down 11.69 per cent), travel goods ($964.7 million, down 10.58 per cent), machinery and electric equipment ($755.34 million, up 31.49 per cent), bicycles ($527.08 million, up 27.78 per cent) and milled rice ($468.58 million, up 11.53 per cent).

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