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Working conditions improving in garment factories of Cambodia: ILO

A report released by Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), a part of the International Labour Organisation, found compliance in the garment industry with working conditions regulations has improved substantially in the last four year. The report is an assessment of BFCs transparency programme. The report said that the proportion of factories in compliance with all 21 critical factors increased from 30 per cent at the launch of public reporting in 2014 to 46 per cent today, while the number of violations decreased from 281 to 197.

The factors that experienced the most significant improvement were “training of workers on emergency evacuation” (17 per cent increase) and “factories ensuring that exit doors are unlocked during working hours” (13 per cent). Both issues are essential to improve workers’ safety in emergency situations, the report noted.

Ester Germans, BFCs programme manager, said there has been notable improvement in working conditions and an increase in dialogue among stakeholders in the segment. “It is clear that publically reporting critical issues continues to drive positive change in factories. We look forward to discussing with our partners on how we can expand the scope of these successful initiatives,” Germans noted. “BFCs continued collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and unions is essential to provide better jobs for Cambodian workers as well as to create business value for the sector.” she added.

Som Aun, President of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, agreed with the findings and said the number of complaints brought to authorities in the sector sharply declined last year. “The Labor Advisory Council was receiving 25 complaints per month during the last few years, but now, they are only seeing four or five per month. It shows that industrial relations among all stakeholders are improving.” The improvement is seen as a result of an agreement between BFC and GMAC on investigating and addressing violations of standards on child labour. Child labour in factories is a zero-tolerance issue, the report said.

On the flip side, the report highlights occupational safety and health as areas that remain a challenge for the sector. Factories are often not willing to invest in better lighting and ventilation, while procedures and policies around occupational safety and health issues are not sufficiently developed or implemented, the report highlights.