Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A factory or family dilemma



A factory or family dilemma

A worker sews items of clothing in a Phnom Penh factory last year
A worker sews items of clothing in a Phnom Penh factory last year. Factories in the garment sector have been accused of using fixed-duration contracts as a means of avoiding benefit payments for pregnant workers. Pha Lina

A factory or family dilemma

Being placed on consecutive short-term contracts in Cambodia’s predominantly female-staffed garment sector is forcing many women to choose between a family and a factory job, unionists and rights groups said yesterday.

Ken Chenglang, acting president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, said many factories were employing workers on fixed-duration contracts (FDCs) as a way of avoiding paying maternity leave benefits once the workers become pregnant.

According to the Labour Law, workers are entitled to benefits after one year of uninterrupted service at a company. But the threat of their employer not renewing their contract or forcing them to take unpaid leave if they fall pregnant leaves some workers on FDCs considering abortion, Chenglang said.

“We’re working with factories and buyers to ask them to stop using short-term contracts because the workers will get nothing when they deliver their baby,” she said.

According to a 2011 Yale University study titled Tearing Apart at the Seams, using FDCs in Cambodia to deny women maternity leave benefits “constitutes sex-based discrimination and violates protections for women included in both the Constitution and the Labour Law”.

But labour rights groups claim the practice is widespread. A 2012-2013 Workers Rights Consortium survey of 127 Cambodian factories found the majority employed most or all of their workers on FDCs.

Solidarity Center country director Dave Welsh said factories, and by association brands, frequently used FDCs as a way of cheating women out of maternity leave. Workers can only be employed on FDCs continuously for two years before their employer is obliged to offer them full-time employment or let them go, he added.

“This is a fundamental labour issue for Cambodia’s garment industry and it has become so widespread that it’s something the industry has become known for unfortunately . . . Up to 95 per cent of factories are complicit in preventing women from returning to work and damaging their job security,” he said. “We’re working to address this by preparing the equivalent of a class-action lawsuit by grouping factories by brand and trying to get them to change this practice.”

But Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said such contracts could be renewed beyond two years.

And while GMAC encourages its members to pay maternity benefits to workers on FDCs, Loo said that “if they haven’t worked for a year they aren’t entitled to maternity leave”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases