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HRW report raises concerns over compliance issues in Cambodia

A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised questions over working conditions and compliance issues in Cambodia’s garment factories. The reports state that the use of loudspeakers by garment factories warns workers about compliance teams’ visit and that mainly female workers in the sector are being denied basic human rights and often face intimidation, forced overtime and summary dismissal in factories around Phnom Penh and other industrial zones in the country. The report mentions references to companies like H&M, Gap and Marks & Spencer and claims that apparel factories in Cambodia which supply to them and other western brands are sub-contracting work to smaller factories which systematically flout labour compliance regulations.

While the report says that the role of the Better Factories Cambodia, an International Labour Organisation factory monitoring program launched in 2001 has been doing a good job in Cambodia and other South East Asian apparel sourcing destinations, there are limitations. "While BFC's reports enjoy widespread credibility internationally, many Cambodian workers we spoke with expressed a lack of confidence in BFC monitoring and said managers coached or threatened workers ahead of external visits," says the report. "Workers recounted how factory managers made announcements using the public announcement system, sent messages through team leaders, or called workers and warned them not to complain about their working conditions to visitors," it adds. It has appreciated H&M and Adidas for disclosing the names and locations of their suppliers, the report urges other brands to come forward and assist.

M&S has told HRW that it will publish its global suppliers’ list by 2016, Gap said it will first study implications of disclosing names for its business. The report says: "As documented in this report, many brands have not fully lived up to their responsibilities due to poor supply chain transparency, the absence of whistle blower protections, and failure to help factories correct problems in situations where that is both possible and warranted."