UK-based Trades Union Congress (TUC), a group of 54 affiliated unions representing 6.2 million working people from all walks of life, has urged the UK Government to address the issue of workers’ rights in Cambodian garment factories by raising the matter with domestic companies who source from Cambodian factories.
In a letter to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, TUC general secretary Frances O’grady urged Mr. Cable to address the serious violations of freedom of association taking place in Cambodia by requesting the EU to negotiate a ‘Sustainability Compact’ with Cambodia.
“We urge the government to also raise this matter through bilateral relations and with companies doing business in the UK that source garments from Cambodia,” O’grady said in the letter.
Cambodia’s garment and footwear exports exceeded US$ 1.81 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, growing at 31 percent year-on-year, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce data.
EU is an important market for Cambodian apparel. The EU facilitates this trade by including Cambodia in its Generalised System of Preferences “Everything but Arms” (EBA) scheme for least developed countries, which provides duty free access to exports from EBA countries.
One of the conditions for continued trade preferences is that Cambodia has to guarantee the exercise of fundamental labour rights in law and in practice.
In view of incidents of strike at Cambodian clothing factories this year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have suggested that, at a minimum, the EU should negotiate a ‘Sustainability Compact’ with Cambodia like the one negotiated with Bangladesh on the issue of freedom of association.
“We support this proposal, as the dire situation in Cambodia undoubtedly merits such action. The EU’s commitment to labour rights in this context would show leadership where it is most needed today,” the letter states.
Additionally, the TUC urges the Government to raise the matter in its bilateral relations with Cambodia, and with all brands incorporated and/or doing business in the UK, which source garments from factories in Cambodia.