The Chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, Van Sou Ieng, said that even if nutrition is an important factor in productivity, it should not the sole responsibility of the factory owner.
“The deduction that the nutrition will automatically improve productivity is not necessarily true. When people are healthy it is better. You can be very healthy and still be lazy,” he said.
Speaking after a Monday night cocktail party at Hagar Catering & Facilities Management to celebrate the launch of the Canteen Nutritional Study, Van Sou Ieng said unions would be less likely to raise such issues against factories if the catering facilities were operated by third parties.
“The best out of this study is that we have an independent provider of food. Hopefully, we will have more standardised, qualified food suppliers that provide proper nutrition and it is not the responsibility of the employers to pay for it.”
Van Sou Ieng said it was for better factories not to get involved in food production.
“If we get involved in food production and food quality, this is not our profession and it will be criticised and it can be abused. That’s why we are reluctant, but we are happy to have third-party independent suppliers.”
Van Sou Ieng said there were 2,600 trade unions in Cambodia for only 500 factories.
“Each trade union is an entrepreneur. We don’t want to fight the unions. We want to work with unions that respect the law. There is a confederation of unions in Cambodia who we work with very well and they comply and respect the law,” Van Sou Ieng said.
“There are only a few that are funded internationally that create problems. Others are abusing the system to make money. We are not here to work against the trade union. We are looking for a responsible trade union that obeys the law, complies with the law and represents the workers demands.”
Van Sou Ieng said he hoped more factories would use the services of third-party canteen suppliers.
“The benefit of today is that for factories wishing to engage and help their workers, we have an independent source of nutrition that they will not be subject to abuse by the trade unions to criticise the employers. I hope more employers will use these services.”
Also at the event was French catering specialist Thibault Paul Favre who has been hired by Hagar Catering & Facilities Management to develop the firm’s catering business, which already produces 7,000 meals per day, 3,000 of which are in the garment factory sector.
“No need to have one kitchen in the city and then to travel,” Favre said.
“It is useless to carry water and food. Our vision is to develop canteens on site. We are not only operating the canteen, but we now have 18 customers and among those, 12 have a kitchen on site.”
Focusing mainly on breakfast and lunch, the meals cost about 3,000 riels and contain 2,000 calories.
“We advise the kitchen; we know the quality of usage, and we can advise properly. We want to solve these problems and let them concentrate on their work.”
One of the customers is the factory that produces goods for the Marks & Spencer brand name, he added.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]