UN: Cambodian factory workers subject to 'rampant' rights violations

According to a recent survey conducted by the UN initiative Better Factories Cambodia, conditions in Cambodian garment factories are improving, but worker rights violations are still occurring in high numbers.

The report covers compliance of 464 factories from 1 May 2017 to 30 June 2018 and details that  “non-compliance [is] most heavily concentrated in the working conditions clusters, particularly Occupational Safety and Health and Contracts and Human Resources”.

Monthly minimum wage rates for a garment factory workers currently stand at US$170/month, up from $100 in 2014. Although this increase is a positive sign, these rates are still incredibly low, are continually forced down by an economy built around the search for cheap labour. Many Cambodians, especially women are forced to work low paying jobs in order to survive, even if rights violations are rampant.

The report outlines a substantial improvement in compliance with international labour standards, with 44% of factories fully complying with 21 critical issues, up 11$ from the previous survey. The positive change however, is clouded by other figures. BFC report that 57 of the factories showed “clear cases of discrimination”, nine committed forced labour violations, and 155 “violated workers’ rights to freedom of association”.

Unlicensed factories in Cambodia’s “informal economy” were not able included in the survey, yet 85% of the population are employed in the informal economy, according to ILO. In an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dy The Hoya of Cambodia’s Centre from Alliance of Labour and Human Rights said, “I do not see any change in the informal sector”.

Better Factories Cambodia have called for new accountability mechanisms and greater transparency in order to improve conditions. Involvement of the Cambodian Government in this is crucial, but is currently highlighted as a shortcoming in the report.

For the full report click here.

Sonja DuncanComment