Garment Factory Report Points to Infractions

Cambodia’s garment factories routinely shortchange their workers, force them to work overtime, neglect proper safety measures and hamper unionizing, a report by the International Labor Organ­ization suggests.

The survey of 65 factories, em­ploying more than 75,000 workers, is the fourth report on working conditions by the UN-affilia­ted body. The survey project be­gan after the US agreed to consider increasing its imports of Cam­bodian garments up to 18 percent if working conditions improved. The US is Cambodia’s biggest ex­port market.

As in previous reports, the au­thors found positive signs. There was no evidence of child labor or forced labor, and sexual harassment was rare. But other findings were more troubling:

• In 57 factories some workers were underpaid. Some were not paid properly for working overtime or at night. Others were not given mandatory bonuses for good attendance or seniority, among other violations.

• In 45 factories workers worked more than two hours a day of overtime “frequently/for several weeks or months in a row.” In 42 factories such overtime “was not…always voluntarily undertaken.” Labor law limits overtime work to two hours a day, and overtime work must al­ways be voluntary.

• Thirty-five factories do not offer paid sick leave, a violation of labor law. In 25 factories, workers said they are sometimes or al­ways forced to work during public holidays.

• Only 19 factories offered 90 days maternity leave, as required by law. Only four gave new mothers one hour off per day for breast-feeding, also required by law. Fifty-four factories did not have a nursing room or day-care center, as required by law for factories employing 100 women.

• Thirty-two factories do not of­fer compensation to workers in­jured on the job, while 52 factor­ies did not have a nurse or doctor on duty during working hours. Both measures are required by law.

• In 51 factories, “no suitable pro­tective equipment was [regularly] provided to [all] workers who needed it,” the survey said. In 28 factories, machines and wir­ing were below appropriate safety standards. In 44 factories, ventilation and air circulation was insufficient in all or part of the factory, while in 37 cases “general cleanliness” was insufficient.

• In 63 factories, chairs were not comfortable or adjustable as re­quired by law, and in all 65 factories workers who worked stand­ing up could not sit down dur­ing breaks “because they were not allowed to do so” or be­cause not enough chairs were pro­vided.

• In 16 factories there were “indications” that management had hampered union organizing. In 12, management had apparently discriminated against union leaders.

In a previous round of surveys the inspectors visited 30 factories. The authors did not name the 65 factories visited in this new round to give factories a chance to im­prove before the next report, sche­duled for three months from now. In subsequent reports the factory names will be tied to specific violations, as in the previous 30-factory survey. As in previous inspections, the in­spectors’ visits themselves were found to have a positive effect. In follow-up visits various factories fixed some violations, the study noted.


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