Managers Taught How to Spot Underage Labor

Staff at eight factories producing footwear for Japanese sportswear brand ASICS were trained Tuesday in how to make sure they are not employing child laborers, a company representative said.

ASICS corporate staff have been in Cambodia this week in a bid to overcome the negative publicity generated when a ceiling at Wing Star Shoes, an ASICS-producing factory in Kompong Speu province, collapsed in May, killing two workers and injuring 11 others.

The collapse was followed by claims that staff at the factory, including one of the victims, were under 15, the legal minimum age for workers.

Yesterday, about 25 people, in­cluding administrative staff from Wing Star Shoes and seven other factories, attended a training session held at the offices of the U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO) in Phnom Penh, ac­cording to George Yoshimoto, manager of the corporate social responsibility sustainability team at ASICS.

Mr. Yoshimoto said while the company did not know the true age of one victim of the collapse, Sim Srey Touch, ASICS wanted to address the broader issue of underage labor at all its factories here. “It’s important for us not to have child labor. Its a big issue in the country,” he said.

The training was also part of ASICS’ move to have all of its factories monitored by the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia program, since before the collapse, not all were part of the voluntary program, he said.

Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser for Better Factories Cambodia, said that the training provided Tuesday was regularly given to staff at other factories in the program.

“It’s about how to prevent recruiting underage workers,” Ms. Tuck­er said, explaining that the problem could be addressed by carrying out rigorous checks on documents and conducting interviews with workers before they were hired.

“It is very, very common for workers to use an ID that is not their own. It is a real ID, it might be their sister or their cousin, but it’s not their own,” she said, adding that IDs or family books were also often manipulated, with dates of birth altered.

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