Cambodia Garment Workers Face Routine abuse of human rights

Government and the global apparel brands Cambodia must do more to protect workers against abuse clothing such as forced overtime and discrimination, a group of man said.

Many factories illegally use short-term contracts to avoid paying benefits and indiscriminately fire workers, and verbal abuse and sexual harassment is common in female-dominated industry, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday The two “work faster or get out.” government and global producers must commit to enforcing the law and ending abuses, the group said.

“The Cambodian women working in the garment industry face a daily onslaught of harassment and abuse, and when they try to defend their rights by forming a union, they often dismissed,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of the ‘Group Asia said by email.

“The problem is factory owners know they can get away with it because the application of the government’s labor law is catastrophic and far too many international brands are primarily interested in avoiding responsibility shabby condition encountered by workers that manufacture their clothes. ”

Soaring wages and inflation in China in recent decades has led to a diaspora of the production of low-cost clothing for countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh where labor regulations and standards security are often poorly enforced. The pressure on local manufacturers to speed production also increased as global brands such as Zara Inditex SA and H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB introduce styles as often as every two weeks to keep the customers coming to their stores.

Economic driver
The Cambodian garment industry, which employs about 700,000 people and exported $ 5.3 billion in clothing and footwear in 2013, was thrust into the spotlight in January 2014 when police and soldiers repressed a workers’ demonstration for a higher minimum wage, killing at least five people. The previous year, a shoe factory collapsed, killing at least two workers.
The apparel industry was one of the main drivers of the Cambodian economy, the forecasts of the World Bank will expand 7.5 percent this year, the fastest pace of all East Asia .
The Human Rights Watch report released in Phnom Penh, was based on over 340 interviews with workers in the garment factories 73, union leaders, labor rights activists, government officials and representatives of the the local garment industry and international brands.
Anti-union practices
Workers in factories supplying 48 international brands have told researchers that overtime was forced instead of voluntary as prescribed by law. Workers at 35 plants have reported anti-union practices, including intimidation and dismissal of union leaders. 30 factories workers have reported specific abuses of pregnant women, such as the refusal to renew contracts.
“I used to be exhausted, but we just had to work very hard,” said Kam Ku Rein, 32, a former worker quoted in the report who left when she was five months pregnant. “I could not go for checkups. I do not have time to go. We had objectives to be met. And I’m too scared to ask permission. I asked the group leader and asked another leader and that leader refused. ”
Despite the legal minimum age for garment workers is set at 15, Human Rights Watch said it documented young workers in 11 factories. All workers who said children in their plants described how managers would order them to hide when visitors came, the group said.
“I was told to hide under the table and put a pile of clothes on us,” Lun Lea, 15, told researchers, noting that it had started working when she was 14. “I stayed there for so long. We laughed with the pile of clothes on us. We also fear that we would be fired. So we tried to keep quiet when visitors were there. ”
Supply Chain
The researchers found that the conditions were worse in the factories that take on the work of subcontracting to other plants, including those that provide well-known international brands.
“Brands have a crucial role in promoting respect for rights throughout the supply chain workers,” said the report. “But a combination of lack of transparency in the supply chain, lack whistleblower protection, and no information about the support mechanisms available – with a lack of support for corrective actions to protect the interests of workers in unauthorized subcontracting factories -. Hinder brand responsibility ”
Human Rights Watch called on the government to hold factories responsible for abuse and to modify its policies on inspection. He called on brands to publicly disclose their suppliers and to take into account the cost of safety, health and respect for the work in their contracts.

Source: Bloomberg

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