UN labour agency reports improving working conditions in Cambodian garment factories

The working conditions of some 30 garment factories in Cambodia, which produce apparel for sale in North America, Europe and developed countries in other regions, showed “encouraging signs of improvement,” according to a new report released today by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO). The “Third Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions Situation in Cambodia’s Garment Sector” provides an overview of progress made by the factories in implementing suggestions made by ILO monitors. The monitoring was done under a technical cooperation project established following an agreement signed in January 1999 by the governments of Cambodia and the United States and amended on last December. The basic goal is to improve working conditions in Cambodia’s textile and apparel sector through monitoring, legislation and increasing awareness of Cambodian labour law and core labour standards developed by the ILO. “We are pleased to note that this ILO project is directly contributing to the improvement of working conditions for Cambodian garment workers,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said. “This provides sound support for one of the ILO’s basic tenets, that employers, workers and governments can work together for the benefit of all concerned.” According to the report, recent monitoring found no evidence of child labour or sexual harassment in the factories. While some problems remain, the report found improvements in ensuring freedom of association and the correct payment of wages. The plants covered in the report employ some 21,000 workers, of whom about 19,000 are women. Overall, Cambodia has some 200 garment factories employing 200,000 workers and produced about $1.1 billion in garment exports, or about 77 per cent of total exports, in 2001. About $820 million of those exports were to the United States, according to the Cambodian Development Resource Institute (CDRI).

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