The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Thursday said the letter written by apparel brands and labour rights organisations addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen reflected a “flawed analysis” of the Kingdom’s situation.
The letter, it said, could bring to reality, the potential loss of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme and the US’ Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
GMAC’s response came after more than 20 brands and associations last week wrote a letter calling on Hun Sen to amend the Trade Union Law, repeal the law on associations and NGOs, drop all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders and respect and foster the important role of the Arbitration Council.
The association said they respected the right of any interested party to express their views on government issues, noting that it had also expressed its views.
In a press release, the GMAC said: “We are, however, concerned that the letter dated January 22, which follows similar letters issued in May 2019 and November 2018, was done without any prior consultation with us.
“It reflects an unbalanced representation that puts at risk the 750,000 workers in Cambodia that rely on our sector for livelihood.
“We worry that the points mentioned in the letter reflect a flawed analysis that advances a narrative about our sectors, which increases the risk of the very loss of EBA and GSP benefits – something the letter allegedly intends the Cambodian government to avoid.”
The GMAC called the letter disappointing and counterfactual. Cambodia, it said, is a prime example of the success of trade unionism in developing countries.
The Kingdom has three union confederations with over 500,000 members affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation. In comparison, Myanmar has only one affiliation with 10,000 members while Vietnam has none.
Cambodia also has 10 unions affiliated with IndustriALL Global Union, it said.
“This is a remarkable achievement of freedom of association. Indeed, the potential loss of EBA and GSP forecast in the letter because of a suggested ‘declining respect for freedom of association’ is in fact totally upside down.
“Regrettably, such a letter only presents a narrative that pushes at [the] risk [of] our workers and their families,” GMAC said.
Alexander Gibson, the communications manager with the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which is one of the NGOs that signed in the letter, told The Post on Tuesday that it was supposed to draw the attention of Hun Sen to specific international labour standards that were currently not being met due to domestic policies in Cambodia.
“These are issues that can only be addressed by the Cambodian government. Outside of these four issues, international brands can, and are, focused on raising standards at supplier factories both in Cambodia and around the world,” he claimed.