‘Work­ers’ wel­fare pro­gresses’

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Kong Meta

AN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ILO) re­port re­leased on Tues­day shows that Cam­bo­dia con­tin­ues to make steady progress in the wel­fare of gar­ment and fac­tory work­ers, but sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns re­main over health and safety is­sues.

The ILO’s Bet­ter Fac­to­ries Cam­bo­dia Pro­gramme (BFC) as­sessed the work­ing con­di­tions in 464 fac­to­ries in the King­dom be­tween May 1, last year, and June 30, this year.

A no­table area of im­prove­ment was in child labour, with the re­port show­ing that the num­ber of un­der­age work­ers “re­duced sharply” from 74 cases be­tween May 2013 and April 2014 to 10 cases in the cur­rent re­port­ing pe­riod. It said un­der­age work­ers of­ten used fal­si­fied iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments to get jobs.

“All 10 cases of child labour were con­firmed as un­der­age work­ers aged be­low 15 years, and all of them were girls.

“Four cases ac­cepted [en­try into] the Gar­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion in Cam­bo­dia (GMAC)/BFC re­me­di­a­tion pro­gramme and were placed in vo­ca­tional train­ing cen­tres,” the re­port noted.

How­ever, some par­ents en­cour­age child labour in Cam- bo­dia, and send their un­der­age chil­dren who are school drop outs to work in fac­to­ries as they needed the in­come. In the process the par­ents fal­si­fied the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments to show their chil­dren were older.

Fac­to­ries ac­cused of hav­ing child work­ers have also com­plained that they were vic­tims as they were given fal­si­fied doc­u­ments to be­gin with.

A gar­ment fac­tory man­ager who de­clined to be named said: “Some of the chil­dren do look older and not un­der­age. We only know the truth when we are in­spected. So we are vic­tims too. In re­al­ity, there is no short­age of work­ers that we need to in­fringe the law to hire un­der­age work­ers,” he said.

Cen­ter for Al­liance of La­bor and Hu­man Rights (Cen­tral) pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor Khun Tharo said while the re­duc­tion was a pos­i­tive step, he sus­pects there may be many more cases that re­mained un­re­ported, with child labour re­main­ing preva­lent across in­dus­tries in Cam­bo­dia.

“Gar­ment and footwear [man­u­fac­tur­ing] is an in­ten­sively fe­male work­force, with the ma­jor­ity liv­ing in poverty in ru­ral ar­eas.

“I’m not sur­prised by the re­port. I’m sure there are more child labour cases that re­main un­re­ported. Fac­tory man­agers hide in­for­ma­tion when there is an in­spec­tion from the Min­istry of Labour and Vo­ca­tional Train­ing, In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion or brands,” he said.

An area in which the re­port noted there was room for im­prove­ment was in worker health and safety. It said “93 per cent (433)” of fac­to­ries did not have ad­e­quate light­ing, also not­ing a lack of ad­e­quate med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in “eighty-five per cent (394)” fac­to­ries sur­veyed.

“While most fac­to­ries have an in­fir­mary, many don’t have nurses or doc­tors on duty dur­ing over­time hours, or have an in­suf­fi­cient num­ber of beds, or don’t have the re­quired medicines avail­able,” it noted.

Health and safety was also a con­cern for Tharo, who said Cen­tral reg­u­larly re­ceives re­ports of work­ers faint­ing in Cam­bo­dian fac­to­ries as a re­sult of “ex­tremely hot tem­per­a­tures”, poor ven­ti­la­tion and mal­nu­tri­tion stem­ming from low wages.

De­spite these con­cerns, the re­search showed the over­all num­ber of vi­o­la­tions on 21 crit­i­cal is­sues in Cam­bo­dian fac­to­ries fell from 811 in 2014 to 631 in the cur­rent re­port­ing pe­riod, with the pro­por­tion of fac­to­ries in com­pli­ance with all publicly re­ported is­sues ris­ing from 32 per cent to 41 per cent.

PHA LINA

Gar­ment fac­tory work­ers stand in­side a trans­port truck as they com­mute to their work­place in Ph­nom Penh’s Meanchey dis­trict.

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