Panel Urges More Reform In Factories

Although the latest Inter­na­tional Labor Organization re­port on working conditions in Cambo­dia’s garment sector showed overall improvement, an advisory committee to the ILO lamented the lack of reform at some factories and several isolated cases of child labor.

The Project Advisory Com­mittee—consisting of representatives from the government, the Gar­ment Manufacturers Associa­tion in Cambodia and trade un­ions—said in a statement accompanying the report that “a number of factories appear to have made limited efforts.”

“We continue to believe that, with the accession of Cambodia to the [World Trade Organiza­tion] in 2004, the expiry of the US-Cambodia Trade Agreement in 2004 and the abolition of trade quotas under WTO regimes come 2005, ensuring that working conditions and labor relations throughout the sector are generally acceptable is now, more than ever, of utmost importance,” according to the committee’s statement.

With the end of worldwide quotas for WTO members mere months away, GMAC and the government are hoping to brand the industry as labor-friendly to attract socially conscious buyers.

The ILO’s independent reports on working conditions, which sprung from a 1999 trade agreement with the US that linked trade preferences to labor standards, are crucial in reassuring buyers that Cambodia’s factories are free of forced labor, child labor and discrimination.

“Whether the industry will be greatly or minimally affected by the end of quotas we will only know for sure in September or October,” Ken Loo, secretary-general of GMAC, said Monday.

The latest ILO report found improvements in payments of correct wages and less forced overtime.

Though it found no indications of forced labor, it did find four minor incidents and two “more serious” incidents of child labor. The ILO called the child labor incidents “inadvertent,” but the advisory committee took notice.

“Though inadvertent and limited in terms of number of workers involved, the [committee] considers this to be a serious matter and appreciates the efforts of all involved in solving the…cases of active child labor identified,” the committee statement said.

 

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