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Better Factories extended, expanded to include travel goods

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Better Factories Cambodia has been renewed six times since it began in 2001. KT/Siv Channa

Better Factories Cambodia, a programme of the International Labor Organization, has been extended for another three years and expanded to cover travel goods.

The memorandum of understanding to extend the programme was signed yesterday by ILO, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

The programme, which has been renewed six times since it began in 2001, will run from Jan 2020 to Dec 2022. This time, however, its scope has been broadened to include travel goods.

“Since 2001, when BFC was established, the programme has – with all of you – improved working conditions and provided more jobs in the garment sector, with spillover effects to other sectors,” said Graeme Buckley, ILO country director for Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.

He said that, over the last few years, overall compliance in Cambodia has improved significantly, partly due to BFC’s transparent reporting on critical issues and low compliance factories.

The number of low compliance factories, Mr Buckley pointed out, has been reduced substantially. In 2013, 10 percent of factories showed low compliance. By 2018, that percentage was down to 2 percent.

“In the next three years, ILO is looking forward to continuing to work together to improve working conditions in the textile and apparel sector. We are also excited to have an expanded mandate, and, most importantly, with much closer collaboration with the MoU,” he said.

“With the MoU expansion into the travel goods and bag sector, which has grown significantly during the last two years, we work in close collaboration to envision a safe, healthy and productive travel goods and bag sector,” he said.

Mr Buckley said BFC will also work with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on the implementation of a joint strategy and action plan to uphold compliance with the labour law and support remediation in the garment, footwear, and the travel goods and bag sector.

In addition, BFC will continue to work with GMAC and travel goods and bag manufacturers to build factory capacity for sustained compliance and support factories in strengthening their management systems.

Van Sou Ieng, GMAC chairman, said the agreement shows Cambodia’s commitment to the continuous improvement of working conditions.

“ILO-BFC is a brand name in Cambodia, and we have come a long way since the programme started in 2001. Some believe the programme should have been dropped after the phase-out of the quota period at the end of 2005. But, to the contrary, Cambodia has boldly endorsed the continuation of the programme up to today,” Mr Sou Ieng said.

“Today, we take pride in amending the MoU to incorporate the travel goods sector,” he said.

Adding the travel goods and bag sector is a significant step forward in the government’s mission to improve working conditions and align with internationally recognised core labour standards and the labour law of Cambodia, said Ith Sam Heng, the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training.

“The Labour Ministry has always considered ILO-BFC and GMAC key stakeholders contributing to ensuring labour rights and working conditions and improving competitiveness and productivity in the garment industry in the Kingdom.”

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