Four independent unions yesterday appealed to buyers and their partners to continue ordering products from Cambodia despite the current political situation.
A joint statement from the Workers Friendship Union Federation, the National Trade Unions Coalition, the Trade Union Federation for Workers and the Cambodia Development People Life Association said foreign buyers should treat the textile and footwear industry as separate to politics.
The statement also called on foreign embassies, the European Union and America to differentiate between political and economic issues.
NTUC president Far Saly said the unions would petition foreign embassies to consider Cambodian workers before making any decisions about purchasing products from the country.
“On behalf of independent unions and associations that are trying to protect workers’ rights, we hope that local and international organisations and buyers will not involve us with political issues,” Mr Saly said.
“We are worried about punishment in terms of orders from buyers or the loss of preferential tax rates. Cambodian garment workers depend on this sector. Their living standards will suffer if orders dry up.”
Mr Saly added that unions want to stay out of politics and protect workers.
Kaing Monika, deputy general-secretary of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, backed the unions’ appeal.
“Continued orders means secure jobs for our workers. Any cut in orders first affects the workers,” he said.
Earlier this month, the US multinational Walmart told Labour Minister Ith Samheng that it will buy more garment, footwear and luggage products from Cambodia next year due to increased capacity from suppliers and improved labour conditions in the country.
Also this month, the Ministry of Commerce’s secretary of state Ok Bung asked representatives from global clothing brands to participate in the investment and transfer of new technologies to the sector in order to help boost exports.
According to Ministry of Commerce figures, Cambodia’s total exports volume reached $9 billion during the first nine months of the year. Eighty percent of that trade consisted of garments or footwear.
In 2016, Cambodia’s garment and footwear industry had 786 factories and a workforce of more than 700,000 people. The main export markets for Cambodian garments are the EU, the US, China, New Zealand and Japan.