A letter signed by apparel brands and labour rights organisations addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging the government to amend the Cambodian Trade Union Law was regarded as “disappointing and false” by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) in a response released on Tuesday.
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The letter was considered by GMAC to call into question the credibility of Cambodia’s apparel, footwear and travel goods sectors, which in return would affect the livelihood of the 750,000 workers in Cambodia who are reliant on the sectors.
“The proposed amendments listed in the attachment to the January 22 letter do not raise points determinative of whether the fundamental principle and the right of freedom of association is established in our sector,” stated the GMAC. The response by the GMAC noted that while Cambodia has had its share of problems related to the sector, as pointed out in a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the association recognises that much work is still needed in order to improve labour and living conditions, despite the government’s achievement in increasing wages and social security benefits.
Additionally, an associated news release also says that in comparison with neighbouring countries Myanmar and Vietnam, the Kingdom has three trades union confederations with a membership of more than 500,00 workers who are affiliates of the International Trade Union Confederation.
Myanmar has one affiliate with 10,000 members while Vietnam has none.
“Cambodia has also 10 unions affiliated to the industrial global union that represents the interest of workers in the garment and footwear sector globally,” GMAC states.
The news release also states that GMAC’s partnership with the ILO to establish the Better Factories Cambodia programme of monitoring, reporting and ensuring transparency has resulted in continuous improvement.
Additionally, GMAC highlights that one of the aims of the establishment of the ILO programme with the Arbitration Council is to play a key role in industrial relations dispute settlement in the country.
The association has also voiced its commitment to working with all stakeholders to further improve labour conditions in the sector and has welcomed continued discussions on the recommendations in the letter with union leaderships and relevant government officials.
The Royal Government has gradually increased minimum wages for workers in the garment and footwear sector, with 2020 observing a 4.4 percent increase in wages from the prior year.