CAMBODIA: Factory improvements starting to stall
Efforts to improve conditions in Cambodia's garment factories have stalled, with key areas including fire safety, child labour and worker safety among those where "lack of attention" is highlighted.
The Better Factories Cambodia Synthesis Report, released by the International Labour Organization's Better Factories Cambodia programme, said the findings come despite global garment buyers publicly stating that they seek factories and business partners who show workers more consideration.
Some of this deterioration may be attributed to the rapid growth of the industry, with the number of export factories increasing by 8% to 412 between November 2012 and April 2013.
However the report emphasised that industry growth need not and should not result in poor working conditions.
"All stakeholders need to take stronger steps to halt the downward trend. If not, Cambodia runs the risk of forfeiting the advantages that accrue to a reputation for decent working conditions," said Jill Tucker, chief technical advisor of ILO-Better Factories Cambodia.
The research found that 15% of factories kept emergency exit doors locked during working hours, a significant decrease in compliance over the last three years. While 45% of factories failed to conduct emergency fire drills every six months, and 53% of factories had obstructed access paths.
While there have been some improvements involving the proper payment of wages and benefits, non-compliance in areas related to the industry's fainting problem and in worker health and safety issues remains significant.
The report also notes that of the 40 strikes that took place during the reporting period, all failed to comply with all legal requirements.
Even though factories were investigated on an individual level, many of the issues are systemic in nature and require intervention relating to national policies or to relationships and pressures in the global supply chain.
The report calls for the government of Cambodia to strengthen enforcement mechanisms to uphold the labour law, for employer organisations to foster a culture of compliance among their members, and for trade unions to lobby for change.
It also urges international buyers to wield their considerable influence over the factories in which they source.
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