Man about town: 10 January 2014

Man about town: 10 January 2014

REVOLUTIONARY GARMENT FACTORY

Siem Reap may have the answer to the strife that’s tearing apart the garment manufacturing industry in Phnom Penh where, cursed with absurdly low wages and stingy holiday leave, garment workers have to toil in poorly equipped dark and dank satanic mills.

But prepare for a mini industrial revolution gathering steam in Siem Reap, with the opening of a factory that’s designed sort of in keeping with some of the modern boutique hotels dotted around town, and which will presumably be a pleasure to work in.

At this time last year, in the January 11, 2013 issue of Insider, journalist Alistair Walsh reported on a socially responsible factory that planned to give better deals to workers. The article noted that construction would shortly begin on the factory for Pactics, a company producing 40 per cent of cases and cloths for the largest sunglass company in the world, Luxottica, which has brands including Ray-Ban, Oakley and Persol.

Piet Holten, president of Pactics, told Insider last year that said rising labour costs in China forced him to look to other countries to start up production, ultimately deciding on Cambodia and Siem Reap.

Last year he said, “I had looked around in Phnom Penh and I didn’t really like what I was seeing there with the garment factories. There were lots of problems with them. They bring girls from the provinces to Phnom Penh to work. Wages are very low, and there is always something going on. I didn’t want to be part of that turmoil. The living conditions are bad, most of the workers don’t have a social life, and they can’t afford to feed themselves very well. It’s not a pretty life.”

Pactics was already operating out of a small factory in town where employees worked eight hours a day for six days a week, and were paid above local industry standards. Including target bonuses, which most employees achieved, sewers earned $93.50 a month plus seniority bonuses. Finishers earned $82.50 a month plus seniority bonuses.

Construction of the new factory is now almost finished and Man About was given a tour by the architect, Stuart Cochlin, whose brief was to ensure that as many recommendations as possible in the Better Factories Cambodia report by the International Labour Organisation were incorporated into the design.

Last month he pointed out that the factory, on a 1.2 hectare site includes a day care centre and play areas, a well-equipped kitchen for employees, a breast-feeding room and outdoor rest and recreation areas. The factory faces north and is naturally ventilated. Solar panels will enable the factory to operate off grid at times

And in keeping with the spirit of Siem Reap, Cochlin said that a chef from one of the town’s leading restaurants will design healthy affordable canteen meals.

Man About predicts that the major problem this factory will face will not be to keep workers happily employed, but to keep them from moving in.

RIGHT ROYAL GROCERIES

Siem Reap’s clutch of expat Britons, some of them still reeling following the humiliating thrashing by Australia in the Ashes cricket series, are now agog over the introduction of Waitrose products on the shelves of Lucky Mall Supermarket.

Waitrose is an upmarket (i.e. posh) chain of British supermarkets, now embarking on world colonisation. The company has a royal warrant to supply groceries, wine and spirits to Queen Elizabeth and, as of January 1, 2011 to her son Prince Charles, the heir apparent apparently.

The arrival of right royal Waitrose products in Siem Reap has sent local Pommy Facebook adherents aflutter, excitedly posting comments such as this: “Siem Reap is now officially suburbia (and I love it, think I may stay)... Waitrose items all over Lucky Supermarket...tea, coffee, packet soups, sauces, baking paraphernalia, and DUCHY biscuits!!!”

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