Labor Efforts Commended By Monitor

Cambodian factories have im­proved somewhat in paying correct wages, in ensuring that overtime is legal and voluntary and in permitting workers to unionize, an international monitor has found.

In a report that could influence the number of garments that factories may export to the US, the International Labor Organization found that a “substantial number of factories have made serious efforts to implement suggestions made by [ILO inspectors].”

But it also said that “there remain a number of factories where little effort was made.”

As in two previous reports, the inspectors found no evidence of child labor, forced labor or sexual harassment. Strikes are still occurring without conforming to legal procedures, the inspectors found.

Problems with overtime and wages are still occurring in “a num­ber of factories,” inspectors found, while freedom of association is being restricted in “a small number of factories.”

“In a number of cases we helped factories in understanding that there may have been some problems,” said Lejo Sibbel, chief technical adviser to the ILO inspection project, which involves regular inspections of 30 randomly-chosen factories.

In other cases, factory clients are demanding improvements in conditions, Sibbel said.

The ILO program responds to a unique 1999 trade agreement with the US that promises Cambodia up to an additional 18 percent in exports if the government works to improve working conditions. The US is Cambodia’s biggest market for garments.

The quota decision is made each December, and US officials are doing a mid-year review with government officials this week, a US Embassy official said. In previous reviews the US has granted Cambodia a 9 percent bonus.

The US official suggested that the factories were responding more to the ILO monitoring than to government enforcement.

“This is a good step forward, and it shows there has been progress. What we need now is for the government to enforce the labor law,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While the US is looking at the overall labor picture, it would be up to the government to enforce the labor law and to reward or penalize individual factories for their progress, Sibbel said.

The Ministry of Commerce auctions off licenses to factories to export garments. Government officials have discussed forbidding offending factories from bidding to fill export quotas, Sibbel said.

The report lists which factories were asked to make changes in about 150 fields relating to Cambodian labor code or international labor standards.

Most factories did not implement the majority of suggestions inspectors had made an average of four months earlier. Some factories had inefficient or remote and foreign management, Sibbel said. Other changes may be expensive or difficult to make, he said.

According to the ILO report, factories that had implemented, or were in the process of implementing, half or more of the inspectors’ suggestions included City New, Eternal Way, Goldtex, Hang Fung, Lucky Zone, Luen Thai, Phnom Penh Garment, PYL Cambodia, Trinunggal, United Faith and Winner.

Factories that failed to implement more than half of the suggestions included Belgian, Bumin, C-One, Cung Sing, Dajoo, FY Cambodia, Gladpeer, Grace Sun, Oceanic, Phong Wan, Quality Textile, San Lei Fun, Shelby, SH International, Thai Pore, Top Clothes, USA Fully Field and Yubin, the report stated.

One factory, Willing, had suspended operations.


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