Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Report calls out Gap suppliers for labour abuses

Report calls out Gap suppliers for labour abuses

Garment workers protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in 2014 to demand that suppliers of US clothing retailer Gap pay them higher wages.
Garment workers protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in 2014 to demand that suppliers of US clothing retailer Gap pay them higher wages. Vireak Mai

Report calls out Gap suppliers for labour abuses

Labour rights abuses are taking place at Cambodian supplier factories for US clothing retailer Gap Inc, according to a new report, the latest in a series aimed at bringing attention to perennially poor conditions in the Kingdom’s garment industry ahead of the International Labour Organization’s annual conference next month.

The report found instances of workers being employed on fixed-duration contracts, being forced to work long overtime hours and being denied social security benefits. In one example from the report, workers often exceeded the 48-hour work week without taking paid evening breaks during overtime.

“The ILO – the only global tripartite institution – has a unique role to play in setting standards for all the actors that impact fundamental principles and rights at work,” the report said. Representatives at Gap headquarters in San Francisco didn’t respond for comment by press time.

The allegations come on the heels of a report also released by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance that found similar working conditions at several Cambodian supplier factories for Swedish apparel giant H&M.

Despite the call to action for the ILO, Moeun Tola, executive director of labour rights group Central, said he was doubtful that conditions would change after next month’s conference, which would only result in “promises and promises”.

“What will be the concrete proposal to make it happen, and how will brand companies work with suppliers to make improvements happen?” he asked, adding that it’s up to the government to act to make improvements.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, agreed that changes need to come from the government, noting the use of subcontractor factories – which are not always as closely overseen – as an increasing cause for concern. “The big companies, they use subcontracts because they want to escape monitoring,” he said.

This year’s ILO conference will focus on global supply chains, according to Esther Germans, manager for ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia. ILO’s 2016 report, titled Decent Work in Global Supply Chains, will be discussed during the conference, and conference participants will settle on a set of recommendations at the close of the conference, Germans said.

Global supply chains have created opportunities for suppliers to move up to higher-value activities and have enabled workers to access employment requiring a higher level of skills with better pay, but sometimes at a price, ILO’s report states.

“However, there are also ample examples where global supply chains lead to deficits in decent work,” the report reads. “Challenges for decent work existed in many countries before they engaged in global supply chains. In some instances, the operation of the chains has perpetuated or intensified them, or created new ones.”

A previous version of this article stated that participants at an annual ILO conference would not settle on recommendations until after the close of the conference. In fact, the conference will close with the adoption of a set of recommendations. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42