Int’l Monitors Report Factories’ Child Labor, Unfair Pay

Nine child labor cases were iden­tified in three garment factories scrutinized in a recent Inter­national Labor Or­gan­i­zation report on Cambo­dia’s garment factory con­ditions, which also listed of­fenses such as unfair payment and impeding the right to unionize.

Two reports released last week detail the efforts of 60 factories to improve their conditions since ILO monitors surveyed them in 2002. Report findings may affect the size of a US garment quota due for renewal in December, a US Embassy official said Tuesday.

“The amount of quota allocated is directly linked to the government and manufacturers’ compliance” with standard working conditions, said US Embassy Eco­nom­­ic and Labor officer Pam Devolder.

Cambodia earned a 12 percent quota bonus for 2003 and is eligible for an 18 percent hike.

ILO monitors observed several seemingly underage workers at the Rao Yuan Garments Corp, Khmer International Garment Ltd and Cambodian Hoi Fu factory. Monitors confirmed that two  workers at Rao Yuan, two at Cam­bo­dian Hoi Fu and five at Khmer International proved to be below the legal working age of 15 years.

Most underage workers were employed after altering their birth dates, the report said. Factory representatives were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The report determined child labor to be less prevalent than the correct payment of minimum wages, night wages, bonuses and piece rates.

“We are concerned, but [child labor] has decreased with time, so it’s less of a problem than in the past,” Devolder said. “The US government is concerned about im­proper wage and overtime payment, and [manufacturers’] compliance with the fair treatment of workers.”

US State Department labor inspectors strongly advised the Cambodian government in May to abide by the labor law, noting concerns over workers’ rights to organize.

The ILO’s reports are reflective of Cambodia’s garment sector in general, which indicates that workers’ overarching freedom of association has not been fully respected, said ILO chief technical adviser Lejo Sibbel.

Bumin Cambodia Garment Co Ltd in June still had not implemented 37 of 49 suggestions made last year, including the assurance of workers’ rights to form and join trade unions. Rao Yuan did not implement 53 of 73 suggestions, including the provision of clean toilets and proper air circulation and ventilation. Factory representatives could not be reached Tuesday.

Garment Manufacturers Associ­ation in Cambodia Deputy Sec­re­ta­ry General David Van said it is unreasonable to expect factories to implement every suggestion made to them and attributed many problems to unreasonable union activity.

Registration for the monitoring system is voluntary, but factories are encouraged by a Commerce Ministry prakas stating that only registered enterprises may use allocated export quotas or buy export quotas through an official bidding process to export textiles to the US.


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