Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Clothes on your back: Inside Cambodia's garment industry

This article, from the Toronto Star, takes us to Cambodia, whose garment industry is not as  big as Bangladesh's, but just as critical to its economy.  I've selected just a few small excerpts here, in part to reflect the seeming roller-coaster of progress, followed by regress.  Please read the entire Star article here.

Excerpt 1:  Moch (Moch and Sar are sisters) starts work at 7 a.m., sewing T-shirt sleeves until eight or nine in the evening, six days a week. She is given a one-hour break for lunch at 11. Her sewing quota is 950 shirts a day. For every 100 shirts above the quota she is paid an additional 25 cents. After adding the two or three hours of overtime, shift after shift, Moch can boost her monthly earnings to $130. Both Moch and Sar work under short-term contracts. Contracts for some workers run as short as three months. The sisters say theirs run for a year.

Four-fifths of Cambodia's exports are garments, from factories like this one southeast of Phnom Penh.
Four-fifths of Cambodia's exports are garments, from factories like this one southeast of Phnom Penh. 
Isabelle Lesser/Associated Press

Excerpt 2:  But Clinton was right about one thing. “We know sweatshop labour will not vanish overnight,” he said. That was April 1997.  Two years later, the bilateral agreement with Cambodia set a new standard.  It was a huge step forward.  Followed by a giant step backward.  Along with the expiry of the bilateral agreement at the end of 2004, Cambodia was fast-tracked to join the World Trade Organization. Under pressure from the garment industry, Better FactoriesCambodia (BFC) changed its reporting methods. As garment factories spread like wildfire in Phnom Penh and as garment exports exploded, transparency was abandoned.

Excerpt 3:  David Welsh is the Cambodia country director for the Solidarity Center, the international labour rights organization launched by the AFL-CIO in 1997. “Stakeholders who benefit most from the presence of the Better Factories program, namely the brands, the government and the industries, have been pushing this notion that if you’re the average consumer in Washington, Toronto or London you’re not to be blamed for thinking, well, the ILO is monitoring every factory there. Surely when they unearth infractions something’s done about those findings. That is exactly not the case. Quite the opposite. So it’s a real misnomer. They’re doing a great job monitoring. But it’s not within their mandate, deliberately not within their mandate, to do anything beyond that . . . I can tell you first hand, all the data that’s given to the government, to the brands and to the factories — it’s virtually always the case that never is any proactive measure taken unless they’re pressured to do so.”

You can read the entire Star article here.

-submitted by Gareth 

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