In a letter to The Phnom Penh Post published on August 20, 2010 (“Manufacturing a future for Cambodian youth”), Mona Tep from the Garment Industry Productivity Centre argued that more Cambodian youths should seek employment in middle management in the Kingdom’s garment factories, and that tertiary education should be restructured towards these jobs.
We agree that it would be good for all concerned if more middle management positions in garment factories could be filled by talented young Cambodians rather than foreign workers. However, one important way to encourage educated youth to choose employment in the garment sector would be for these businesses to improve their record of respecting human rights.
While labour conditions in garment factories have improved markedly in the last few years, partly as a result of the Better Factories Cambodia initiative, it is clear that problems remain. With the slew of recent stories in this newspaper regarding workers fainting on the job (“Fainting hits another factory”, August 23) and strikes by employees over insufficient pay (“Garment pay strike continues”, August 23) it should be no surprise that (as alleged by Mona Tep) Cambodian youths prefer to seek work in banking, government or international organisations. Can you blame them?
The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights has over the last year implemented a successful project working with businesses, civil society actors and the Royal Government of Cambodia to encourage and promote greater respect for human rights among businesses. Overall, the series of meetings, workshops and seminars has been very well received by the business community, many of whom now recognise that not only is respecting fundamental rights the morally and legally correct thing to do, but it is also good for business. Unfortunately, so far there has been a notable lack of engagement from businesses in the garment sector. This further contributes to the perception that these businesses do not take their responsibility to respect human rights seriously.
CCHR encourages all apparel businesses to take positive, practical steps to ensure their operations respect human rights. When they do, they are likely to find that like other leading Cambodian businesses, not only are they better able to attract talented young employees, but the productivity of their existing workforce may increase. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Mona Tep to jointly make this case to businesses in the garment sector.
Ben Winslade and Chak Sophy
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights
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