The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) said today that its initial probe of working conditions in Cambodian garment factories found no evidence of child labour, forced labour or sexual harassment, but did reveal some problems related to over-time payments, hours of work and anti-union discrimination.
The "First Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions Situation in Cambodia's Garment Sector" is the result of a ground-breaking project that has thrust the ILO into a new role as a factory-labour monitor of Cambodia's trade agreement with the United States, the agency said in a statement issued in Geneva.
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia welcomed the positive approach of all the parties involved in this unique project, which he said offered an example of “the sort of enforceable standards” needed in the global trade sector. “The global economy needs a floor of core labour standards. It could take five years, but labour rules are going to be there,” he said.
The Project Advisory Committee - comprising representatives from the Cambodian government, employers and trade unions also welcomed the report and believed its support of the ILO programme had brought "positive benefits to all of the parties in Cambodia and has led to improved working conditions and greater respect for the rights of workers."
The US-Cambodian trade agreement, signed in January 1999, offers a possible 14 per cent annual increase in Cambodia's export entitlements to the United States, provided the Asian nation meets the ILO's core labour standards. On 1 December of each Agreement period, Washington is to make a determination on whether the Cambodian textile and apparel sector are "substantially" complying with the standards.
Cambodia's garment exports in 2000 were worth $985 million - 70 per cent of total exports - of which US exports were worth $750 million, according to figures supplied by the Cambodian Development Resource Institute.
Last year, the country had 220 garment factories employing 200,000 workers. A total of 190 factories were registered with the ILO, employing some 168,300 workers, the overwhelming majority of whom - approximately 148,000 - were women.