Seven garment factories have stopped or suspended operations over the past year due to poor economic performances or ill-managed operations, labor officials said Wednesday.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia on Tuesday removed seven enterprises from its list of 196 members. The association partially attributed the suspensions to undisciplined union activities, which it says are contributing to a general decline in the industry’s health.
Increasing job and export figures tell a different story, however.
“We are appealing to uncontrollable elements to show them how they are hurting the industry,” said GMAC Secretary-General David Van of unions that don’t respect the labor law when staging strikes.
Tommy Textile MFG, Cambodia Castle Peak Garment Export, Cambodia CPG Garment Export, Evertex Inc, Shenzou (Cambodia) Textile, Sino-Nature Garments (Cambodia) and Lucky Sweater were closed over the past year, collectively dismissing 4,058 workers, Van said.
Tommy Textile closed in January after a rough history with unions that included a June 2001 strike that culminated in the factory’s burning and looting. Two union leaders were arrested for provoking the violence, despite being cleared earlier of the charges.
Cambodian Federation of Independent Trade Unions President Ros Sok said Wednesday that Tommy’s closing likely resulted from its mismanagement. The factory was home to bad working conditions and even worse supervision, he said, accusing managers of fabricating evidence to incriminate union leaders.
Thai-owned Cambodia Castle Peak and Cambodia CPG closed in the wake of the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, Van said.
Evertex was a “stillbirth,” said GMAC Secretary-General Ray Chew of the small enterprise that never got up and running.
GMAC could not explain why the others closed, but said mergers or poor economic performances had reduced its membership from approximately 250 in 1999 and 2000 to the standing 196. No factory managers were available for comment Wednesday.
Irresponsible union activity must be quelled to prevent further closures, Van said, citing a recently published International Labor Organization report on Cambodia’s working conditions as supporting evidence.
Minister of Labor adviser Thach Sem said the factories’ closures more accurately reflected management styles than workers’ attitudes.
“It is normal for them [to close]. If the factory is governed well, it will progress. If the organization is not governed well, it will decline.”
US Embassy economic and labor officer Pam Devolder said the exact number of factories running in Cambodia is not indicative of the industry’s health, which she said is relatively strong.
The garment sector has grown from $355 million in exports and 80,000 jobs in 1999 to $1.33 billion in exports and 220,000 jobs this year, Devolder said.