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Temporary employment contracts come under fire, ITGLWF
24
Feb '09
The Global Union representing workers in the textile and clothing sector is taking action to oppose proposed amendments to Cambodia's labour law aimed at extending the use of temporary employment contracts.

Says Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the Brussels-based International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation: “The widespread use of temporary contracts in Cambodia has had a very negative impact on worker rights in our sector. Such contracts represent a major obstacle to the right of freedom of association as they enable employers to get rid of trade union leaders with ease by simply failing to renew their temporary contracts. In addition, contracts of less than one year allow employers to avoid key obligations to workers, including maternity and sick leave.”

“The use of short-term contracts has till now been a grey area of the law, though the Arbitration Council has interpreted the labour code to require that employees who have worked for an employer for two years must be treated as permanent employees.”

“The private sector has been lobbying the government to amend these provisions and as a result the Ministry of Labor has drafted proposed amendments that would enable employers to hire workers on temporary contracts indefinitely.”

A number of garment manufacturers have reportedly already began switching from permanent to temporary contracts.

“The proposed amendments are inconsistent with good multistakeholder and corporate codes of conduct, which ban companies from using short-term contracts as a means of avoiding legal obligations to workers”, says Mr. Kearney.

The ITGLWF has made approaches to the brands participating in the Better Factories Programme, urging them to publicly insist that their suppliers refrain from using short-term employment contracts.

The Global Union has also made representations to the government, warning that the proposed changes would make Cambodia less competitive from the point of view of corporate social responsibility and calling on the government to desist in its efforts to extend the use of temporary contracts.

Says Mr. Kearney: “As the current worldwide recession continues to deepen and brands and retailers are forced to cut back their orders, many are looking to give priority to suppliers that perform the best both on production criteria and on social compliance. In order to weather the crisis and prepare for recovery, it is therefore of vital importance that Cambodia upholds the protection of workers in the sector”.

The Global Union is considering further action, including the possibility of a formal complaint to the International Labour Organisation.

The International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF)

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