UK Trades Unions Say Cambodian Workers Rights Must be Respected

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Female garment factory workers in Cambodia. AFP

PHNOM PENH, August 4,  (Khmer Times) – Repression against workers who take strike action is growing in Cambodian factories, which are supplying the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe’s demand for low-end clothing and footwear. 
 
The secretary general of the UK’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills to request that Cambodia’s trade privileges, encapsulated in the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) be used to pressure UK companies to examine employment conditions practiced by their Cambodian suppliers. 
 
Ms.O’Grady is the chief permanent officer of the Trades Union Congress and is seen as a major figurehead in the trade union movement in the UK.
 
Cambodia’s garment industry is the nation’s largest income earner and employs about 500,000 workers, the majority of whom are female. The industry is considered to be an important engine for economic growth as the country’s exports to the European Union is worth nearly £1.1bn in 2013, having increased by 31 percent from 2012.
 
With the urging of the TUC, western clothing groups including Gap, Puma, Adidas and H & M wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen last January, cautioning the government to avoid using violence against striking workers. 
 
According to Ms. O’Grady, European-based corporations have a responsibility to ensure that workers’ rights are respected in their supply chain.
 
A report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) said that working conditions in Cambodian garment factories had worsened, after a steady improvement between 2005 and 2010.  The ILO has two major concerns, namely the exploitation of child labor and fire safety.

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