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Factory flaws go live

Garment workers sew clothing on a production line at the MAG factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district in January
Garment workers sew clothing on a production line at the MAG factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district in January. Pha Lina

Factory flaws go live

Unionists and labour rights officials are applauding a website scheduled to go live today that will hold to account garment factories that flout Cambodia’s labour law.

The site, created and maintained by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program, will publicly name factories that violate two or more ILO workplace standards.

“Before, [factories] were not publicly disclosed,” BFC spokesman Tivea Koam said yesterday. “All of the public pressure will push buyers to … make sure they comply with the law.”

A quarterly report identifying the factories will be available through the website, Koam said. Named factories will be allowed to upload to the website photographs and other media detailing steps they are taking to improve working conditions.

“Before, reports of individual companies could only be viewed by factory owners [and buyers], the public could not check,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CADU). “It’s a tool for pushing the companies, so this way companies find ways to improve working conditions and obey the labour law.”

Koam named child labour and repression of union activity as frequent violations of labour law.

The heightened transparency the public notifications will bring to Cambodia’s garment and shoe industry comes at a time when compliance to labour laws is on a downward slide, said David Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center.

Telling the public which garment factories subject employees to poor working conditions and the clothing brands that buy from them will likely benefit most workers, Welsh said. But the sector has problems beyond lacking transparency.

“It’s an important first step, [but] I don’t think things are going to change overnight,” Welsh said.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary general Ken Loo could not be reached yesterday.

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