UN prioritising protection of Cambodian garment workers

22 Jun '21
3 min read
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock

The United Nations system in Cambodia is working together with national authorities and stakeholders to mitigate the immediate negative impacts of the pandemic and to build a more sustainable and resilient garment industry for the long term. It recently welcomed the country’s efforts to prioritise COVID-19 vaccinations for the garment sector.

Notwithstanding the ongoing government support, the UN system in Cambodia is concerned about the lasting impact of the pandemic and efforts to control it on the social and economic rights of garment workers, an UN information note said.

It is also concerned about conditions in quarantine facilities of garment workers when testing positive, including the lack of information, hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Since the pandemic began, garment exports in the country dropped by around 9.9 per cent, contributing to a 3.4 per cent reduction in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.

Through technical assistance and advocacy, the UN is prioritising protection of garment workers’ health, employment and income; as well as improving working conditions, promoting business continuity and boosting competitiveness of the garment sector, the note said.

It is supporting bipartite worker-management committees in factories as well as tripartite mechanisms involving government, employers and workers at the national level to promote dialogue regarding the needs of the sector.

The tripartite dialogue also encourages greater collaboration to find solutions during the pandemic. International brands sourcing from Cambodia are important UN partners in efforts to make a difference in the garment sector.

To protect garment sector workers and safeguard the public health, the UN initiated a risk assessment in the garment sector to prepare factories for restarting operations after the lockdown in May 2021. This aimed at putting risk mitigation measures in place before reopening through a multi-sectoral approach and greater community participation, including engaging the business sector for safer and more productive solutions for operating under a ‘new normal’.

The UUN is working jointly with the country’s ministry of labour and vocational training on raising awareness of COVID-19 mitigation measures in factories in the Phnom Penh area and in surrounding provinces.

As part of a technical assistance programme focusing on the garment sector, the UN provided factory and sectoral level support, including mandatory assessments for factories, capacity development, virtual workshops and convening the industry stakeholders to discuss issues related to the garment sector in the country.

Since the beginning of 2021, the UN facilitated more than 455 meetings with factory level worker-management committees in approximately 200 factories (289 virtual visits and 166 in person visits). More than 40 virtual trainings on different topics for factory workers and management were conducted.

The UN continues to work closely with the ministry, the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and unions on these critical issues.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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