Original report from Washington
14 October 2008
Representatives from 28 brands of garment buyers held a two-day meeting in Phnom Penh this week, expressing commitment to continue buying from Cambodia.
“The representatives stated they are recommending that their companies continue sourcing from Cambodia,” according to a joint statement from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the International Labor Organization.
Garment exports are a top driver of Cambodia’s industry, but worries among the sector have mounted in the facing of an ailing global economy and improved trade relations between the US and Vietnam.
The garment industry, which employs around 350,000 workers, has sought to brand itself friendly to workers and without “sweatshops,” efforts that have at times come at loggerheads against robust activism.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, the nation’s largest, welcomed assurances from buyers, but said representatives had done little to work with independent unions.
“It seems that the gap between the buyers and the unions if far reaching, so workers do not receive the full benefit of production through their work in a legitimate way,” he said.
The Free Trade Union has not seen criteria from buyers ordering factories to maintain good working conditions, proper salaries and workers rights, he said.