Cambodia: ITUC Expresses Concerns for Trade Union Rights in the Garment Sector

For years, trade unions and the workers they represent in the garment sector have been subject to numerous serious violations of their rights. Excessive hours of work and poor working conditions have led to several episodes of mass fainting. Collective bargaining agreements are being breached, and employers are refusing to negotiate with certain independent unions.

Workers are fired for anti-union motives and are not reinstated, despite binding arbitration awards in their favour. The industry has shifted to using short, fixed duration contracts in an effort to create employment instability and undermine the exercise of fundamental rights. This year, workers have also been the victims of violence, including a shooting outside of a garment factory earlier this year; the perpetrator has been charged on a minor offense yet still remains free.

As May Day approaches, Cambodian unions are mobilising to demand respect on the job. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) fully supports Cambodian trade unions in their efforts to overcome these many challenges.

At the same time, the ITUC is appalled to learn that GMAC (Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia), the members of whom are responsible for many of the labour violations in the garment industry, has lashed out at the workers rather than engaging in good faith dialogue.

Sharan Burrow, the ITUC General Secretary, reacted, stating “It is simply unacceptable that employers are calling on the authorities to ‘crack down’ on legitimate strikes and worse that they are publicly demonising independent unions who have had the courage to stand up for their members and demand respect on the job.” The ITUC has launched an urgent call for mature industrial relations in Cambodia, as genuine dialogue with the workers is the only way forward. Decent work and social dialogue are the pillars for sustainable development and social peace.