Govt, union officials downplay threat to garment sector
A garment worker sews clothing at a factory in Phnom Penh.
ARISE in garment factory closures could threaten the viability of one of the Kingdom's key economic sectors, a labour official told the Post.
Cheat Khemara, of the Garment Manufacturer's Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said closures so far this year have nearly eclipsed those of 2007.
Kaing Monika, external affairs manager at GMAC, said a total of 25 factories have been shuttered, with 16 new ones coming online - leaving a total net closure of nine, compared to 10 during 2007.
About 2,000 workers have been put out of work due to the closures, according to Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, Cambodia's largest workers group.
Too many trade unions
Kaing Monika said the influence of trade unions have hurt the industry by unsettling potential new investors.
"The country gives too much freedom to the trade unions," he said.
"There are about 1,000 different unions operating in more than 33 factories."
Cheat Khemara said a government policy of not locating factories in large cities has also created problems for some workers.
"The factories need to be located in larger population centres. They agree to cover the costs of transportation or risk losing their most skilled workers," he said.
Oum Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said, however, that the closures do not pose a threat to the industry.
"Some factories have closed because the number of orders has dropped," he said. "But others are simply relocating."
He added that the nation's economy continues to be stable.
Chea Mony estimated that in addition to those workers affected by the closures, some 27,000 have left their jobs for employment elsewhere. Cambodia has about 350,000 garment workers nationwide.
"The factories in Cambodia will never go bankrupt," Chea Mony said. But he did admit there is cause for concern.
"The number of workers has declined because they are less able to make their living on factory wages as inflation continues to rise."