US apparel giant pledges to purchase more Cambodian goods

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Cambodian women work in a factory near Phnom Penh. KT/Ven Rathavong

US publicly traded company VF Corporation, a lifestyle apparel and footwear multinational, pledged to increase orders from Cambodian manufacturers, citing an improvement in working conditions in the kingdom’s garment industry.

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Bradford van Voorhees, the company’s manager for global responsible sourcing, announced the decision during a meeting with the Cambodian Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos also lauded recent progress in factory working conditions in the kingdom, and said as a result Canada may start placing more orders with Cambodian garment manufacturers in the near future.

According to the ministry’s press release, Mr van Voorhees was very satisfied with governmental efforts to create cordial industrial relations, as well as safeguarding workers’ rights and guaranteeing their safety and welfare while on the job.

Mr Sam Heng told reporters after the meeting that VF was in the kingdom to follow up on labour conditions concerns raised with the ministry in October. Some of those concerns included unsafe commutes faced by workers as well as several reported cases of faintings in local factories.

The ministry said the government has been hard at work to address these concerns, implement the law and abide by international standards. He said they are now considering a number of projects to ameliorate travel conditions and put an end to faintings.

“So far, their concerns have been resolved, which has made all parties satisfied with what we have previously discussed,” Mr Sam Heng told reporters.

“Orders are still being made, and VF is still committed to continue to increase orders.”

A report released last month by Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), a programme of the International Labor Organization (ILO), found that compliance in the garment industry with working conditions regulations has improved substantially in the last four years.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary general at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), told Khmer Times that with the help of ILO and its BFC programme the lives of workers in the garment industry have improved substantially in recent years.

“There’s been a remarkable improvement in working conditions and rights, such as full freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining,” he said.

“Developments in social security and the regular wage adjustment on an annual basis are also positive points for the workers. This would continue to ensure our preferential access to the EU market.”

Besides the ILO, Mr Sam Heng said the ministry is also working with Germany’s GIZ and The Global Deal to better labour conditions in the kingdom.

The VF Corporation buys $350 to $400 million worth of goods every year from 28 different Cambodian factories.

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