Labor Report: Factories Have Made Progress

A UN survey of working conditions inside Cambodia’s garment factories has found no evidence of child labor, forced labor or sexual harassment, but found some in­stances of forced overtime work and anti-union discrimination, officials said Friday.

The report, released Friday by the UN’s International Labor Organi­zation, also stated “non-cor­rect” payment of wages sometimes occurs and strikes “are not organized in conformity with the legally required procedures.”

The report shows “much pro­gress” has been made in recent years, making labor conditions “acceptable,” US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said. But, he said, there is a need to im­prove abilities of workers to assemble and elect representatives.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Assoc­iation of Cambodia, said factory owners recognize there is room for improvement in abiding by labor standards. But there are 200 garment factory unions, enough to show “tremendous freedom of association,” he said.

Independent ILO monitors began visiting factories in June to assess how well manufacturers were following Cambodian labor law. Friday’s report is the ILO’s first such survey and contains findings from 30 factories. Sub­sequent reports, released every three months, will contain information from monitoring other garment factories registered with the ILO’s monitoring project, officials said. A total of 190 factories are participating in the project.

The report comes as US trade negotiators prepare for talks here with the government on the annual percentage of Cambodian-made garment products to be exported to the US. Each year, the US decides whether Cambo­dia has improved working conditions enough to warrant an in­crease in the garment quota.

Wiedemann said Cambodia is “working toward developing a reputation as a safe haven for American and international buyers who want to ensure” the garment products they purchase are made by workers “whose basic rights are respected.”


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