Private companies and some unions urge creation of fund to provide vocational training for factory workers facing job cuts
A garment factory in Phnom Penh. Unions remain divided on whether to set up a vocational fund.
THE government is being urged by private companies and some labour unions to establish a national vocational training program, primarily for garment sector workers whose job security is in question amid a global downturn in the textile industry.
Factory representatives, along with union and provincial officials, met last week to discuss funding for the program, which is hoped to come from a wide array of sources, including donors and the government, said Mao Nara, coordinator for the Cambodia Institute of Development Study.
"I think that the establishment of the fund is the responsibility of the government and factory owners, as well as donors," Mao Nara told the Post.
"It will not materialise if there are no contributions from those stakeholders," he added, saying he would press for the fund to be established next year.
Cambodia's garment sector employs approximately 340,000 mostly female workers. A majority of them support poor families in the countryside, and officials estimate that major upheaval in the sector could impact millions of people.
Som Oun, president of the Federal Union of Cambodian Workers, pressed the Ministry of Labour and factory owners to support a fund to provide job training for unemployed workers and compensation for those hurt on the job.
"I will lobby employers to contribute to the fund because it will require millions of dollars," he said, adding that concerns over corruption also had to be addressed.
"We have to create a committee to manage the fund budget so that the public trusts it," he said.
Some factory owners and unions, however, have not rushed to support the initiative.
"We are sitting on the fence on this issue.... I think that it is a heavy burden on garment factories because factories already have many funds they have to contribute to," said Ma Maun, managing director of Ocean Garment Co.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, Cambodia's largest trade organisation, also said that he opposes the idea of setting up a fund.
"I don't think that the fund will do anything for workers. I don't think anyone will trust it or pay money into it," he said.
He said similar government-backed schemes have failed.
Oum Mean, a secretary of state for the Labour Ministry, said he supported the idea of establishing a national fund for unemployed workers, but that neither government nor industry officials have pushed for its creation.
"If there is the green light from the government, the ministry will join the initiative, but so far, there are no instructions from the government on this issue," said Oum Mean.