A report released Tuesday by Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), a programme of the International Labour Organisation, found that compliance in the garment industry with working conditions regulations has improved substantially in the last four year.
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The report is an assessment of BFC’s transparency programme, a publically available overview of the performance of the garment sector based on 21 critical factors.
The report said that the proportion of factories in compliance with all 21 factors increased from 30 percent at the launch of public reporting in 2014 to 46 percent 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 percent increase) and “factories ensuring that exit doors are unlocked during working hours” (13 percent).
Both issues are essential to improve workers’ safety in emergency situations, the report said.
Ester Germans, BFC’s programme manager, said in the report that there has been a notable improvement in working conditions and an increase in dialogue among stakeholders in the sector.
“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,” Ms Germans said.
“This report and our research shows that improved working conditions are not only good for workers, but also for businesses.
“BFC’s 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.”
Som Aun, president of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, agreed with the findings of the report, and said that 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.”
According to the report, the practice of child labour in the sector is also declining. 74 cases were reported in 2014, but only four last year.
“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 negative side, the report highlights occupational safety and health as areas that remain a challenge for the sector. Factories are often unwilling to invest in better lighting and ventilation, while procedures and policies around occupational safety and health issues are not sufficiently developed or implemented, according to the report.
520 garment and 52 footwear factories are registered with GMAC. Garment and footwear exports rose by 7.2 percent in 2016.