Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Thursday, February 10, 2005

UN labour body expands monitoring of Cambodia's garment factories

UN labour body expands monitoring of Cambodia's garment factories
The UN's labour body announced Wednesday it was expanding its monitoring of garment factories under a project aimed at improving labour standards in one of the world's poorest economies.

Cambodia, where garment exports represent 40 percent of the economy, is angling to survive the December 2004 end of the world textile export quota system by marketing itself as being a labour-friendly, socially responsible exporter.

The Garment Sector Project is being expanded and re-named the Better Factories Cambodia Project, with the International Labour Organisationand the Cambodian government working in partnership, the ILO said.

"Cambodia's improved compliance with international labour standards, monitored by an independent body, is offering the garment sector a competitive advantage that is lacking in other areas," ILO executive director Sally Paxton said in a statement.

"This gives consumers and companies the necessary confidence to choose Cambodian-made garments," she added.

Under the expanded project, a web-based reporting system will be launched and in the next six months information on most factories in Cambodia will be available on a website, the ILO said.

The expiration of the global Multifibre Arrangement (MFA), which allocated textile quotas to developing nations and gave Cambodia its entry into the world market, is expected to see powerhouse China elbow out competitors.

Meanwhile US clothing retailer Gap Inc. and the World Bank inked a deal to train 650 supervisors in the garment sector aimed at improving labour relations.

The one-year training in Khmer and Chinese at seven factories will cover conflict resolution and human resource management.

Dan Henkle, vice president of global compliance for Gap Inc., said such programs had already improved factories elsewhere.

"These kinds of capacity building efforts truly do impact not only labour standards in factories but also every other dimension of what's really important: overall productivity, quality, absenteeism, turnover rates in factories, it's really all connected," he told a news conference.

Gap is Cambodia's largest purchaser of garments and Henkle said the company would continue sourcing here, noting that "there has been tremendous progress on labour standards in this country".

A one-day international summit is being held in Phnom Penh Friday to discuss Cambodia's garment sector and outlook.

The United States, which linked its quotas for Cambodia's producers with improvements in labour standards, has been upbeat on the future of the sector, saying in December that its record should help it survive the post-MFA world.

But it has also warned that the kingdom must also tackle notorious corruption and reform the legal system in order to raise investor confidence.

Up to 95 percent of Cambodia's 270,000 garment sector workers are women aged between 18 and 25.

© AFP Agence France-Presse - tdg

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