The Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) programme has been extended for a further three years as the country prepares to find out this week if it will retain EU trade preferences.

The BFC, which monitors more than 580 exporting factories, will now continue until December 2022, during which time the partners have committed to continue to improve working conditions, competitiveness and productivity in the textile and apparel sector. Coverage has also expanded to include travel goods and bag manufacturers.

The BFC partnership comprises the Ministry of Labour, the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), domestic unions, and the International Labour Organization.

In a statement, the BFC said: “Since 2001 the Government of Cambodia has linked trade with labour standards in the garment and textile sector in Cambodia in order to promote compliance with, and effective enforcement of, existing labour law, and to promote labour rights against the Cambodian labour code and internationally recognised core labour standards.

“The BFC programme will continue to perform assessments on the working conditions in factories. Advisory and training activities on workplace improvement and productivity enhancement will continue to operate regularly on a fee for service basis. The BFC will also work with the Ministry of Labour on the implementation of a joint strategy and action plan with the objective to support the Government’s capacity and ownership to uphold compliance with labour law and support remediation in the garment, footwear, travel goods and bag sectors.”

Furthermore, the BFC says it will continue to collaborate with GMAC and manufacturers to build factory capacity for sustained compliance and support factories in strengthening their management systems.

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Last month, a number of brands and retailers again called on the Cambodian government to set out steps to bring the country in line with international standards amid ongoing concerns over the deteriorating labour and human rights situation in the country. The move prompted GMAC to say such a narrative puts workers at risk.

The European Union is currently reviewing Cambodia’s Everything but Arms (EBA) duty-free benefits, with a final determination expected on Wednesday (12 February). Members in the US Congress have introduced bills that would require the US government to review Cambodia’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits. Both actions are based on the declining respect for labour standards, including freedom of association, and other issues related to respect for human rights issues in Cambodia.