ILO REPORTS MIXED SCENE IN CAMBODIA

Byline: Kristi Ellis

WASHINGTON — The International Labor Organization has issued a mixed report on working conditions in Cambodian garment factories and textile mills, at a time when U.S. trade officials are in the country to discuss whether to renew the bilateral textile agreement.
A U.S. multi-agency team is expected to wrap up talks today in Cambodia on renewal of the textile and apparel pact, which expires Dec. 31, and will take the ILO’s report into account.
In its report, the ILO stated it found no child labor, forced labor or sexual harassment in 30 garment factories, employing 21,431 workers. However, officials who monitored the factories from June through September, did find “troubling evidence” of discrimination against unions, incorrect wage payments and forced overtime.
An 18-member advisory committee noted that a majority of factories in the first report did not violate trade-union rights, though “more work needs to be done to ensure that workers’ rights to organize are fully enforced.”
The ILO signed an agreement with the Cambodian government and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia in 1999 to monitor working conditions in the country’s apparel industry. Principally funded by the U.S., the $1.4 million program calls for factory visits by ILO-trained and supervised monitors to collect data on factory compliance with internationally recognized core labor standards and Cambodian labor laws.
A key issue to be decided today is whether the Bush administration will renew the provision on labor in the Cambodian textile pact first negotiated under the Clinton administration. The agreement became the first U.S. trade pact to reward improvements in labor standards with an increase in market access.
Under the 1999 textile pact, Cambodia is eligible to receive up to a 14 percent annual increase in apparel and textile exports contingent on improvements in working conditions and labor standards.

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