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Newsletter

Nº 16, September 2010

Progress in relations between workers and employers, despite recent obstacles

met to discuss the process for setting a new minimum wage for the garment and footwear industries. Unions and employers and submit their positions during the summer, and to engage in consultations or negotiations based on these. commissioned two studies on the level of minimum wage necessary to establish decent living conditions, which found that a living wage $93 per month. Meanwhile, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia

by unions, not independently verified by Better Factories Cambodia Strikes began on Monday 13 September and were suspended by union leaders on Thursday 16 September, following a commitment by the government to hold a meeting to discuss grievances. This meeting took place Group on Industrial Relations, chaired by the Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. The Minister decided to establish a working group of five representatives each from the employer and union sides, facilitated by two senior government officials, to discuss claims for additional benefits, such as an increased seniority and attendance bonus, a transportation and housing allowance and a higher meal allowance. Unrelated to the specific issue of the minimum wage or this particular strike action, GMAC and six major union confederations and federations signed a landmark

A garment worker expresses her opinions about the new minimum wage and her difficulty with the small increase during a public forum to demand higher wages on 25 July in front of the National Assembly

The past four months have seen important developments in relation to minimum wage setting and industrial action in the garment industry. The government established a new minimum wage of $61 per month for regular

of its members by means of internal discussions. the minimum wage through a vote, although apparently no consultations or negotiations had been held since the

rights disputes; they will not strike or lockout prior to arbitration, and will use these only as a last resort, if the other party refuses to implement the award. arbitration to settle all disputes that arise, and will make no further claims during the life of the agreement. This agreement applies to current and future GMAC members and to current and future affiliates of

workers. Other unions voted in favour. mandate from their members to pursue negotiations with the government and employers to reconsider the minimum wage level. After efforts to reopen these discussions proved unsuccessful, CLC and CNC gave the authorities and GMAC notice of their intention to strike, and obtained

organizing strike action during the week of 13 September. This affected a significant proportion of the industry. body mandated to recommend minimum wage increases,

between the unions and management, and both sides including the text of the agreement, can be found at www.betterfactories.org .

Enterprise representatives set up action plan on maternity protection in the workplace

ILO Better Factories Cambodia, in partnership with conducted consultative meetings on maternity protection in Kampong Speu and Svay Rieng provincial towns on 26 August and 2 September, respectively. Representatives from various enterprises, such as garment, bicycle and footwear factories as well as casinos and hotels, actively participated in the discussion, in order to identify challenges and generate solutions in relation to passing on information on maternity protection to workers. Together, they noted challenges such as a general lack of infirmaries, nursing rooms and other important facilities in the workplace. In response, they decided to disseminate education on breastfeeding, complementary feeding and folic acid supplementation during pregnancy and in the post-partum period. This would be done by

means of TV spots on relevant issues, played through the loudspeakers and using video technology at the workplace.

of newborns receive breast milk within an hour of birth reach six months old. Mr. Chea Sophal, ILO Better Factories Cambodia's National Project Coordinator, noticed strong commitment among enterprise representatives to disseminating information on maternity protection to workers in the workplace, formalized through the development of an action plan.

Labour and Vocational Training, in cooperation with ILO Better Factories Cambodia, employers, workers and unions, will continue collaborating with women and men working in the factories in order to ensure working conditions, maternal protection and provision of health care." province, highlighted her expectations of the programme's "I strongly believe that the programme will contribute

Enterprise representatives discuss challenges and develop an action plan to improve maternal protection

Garment workers' radio competition on Cambodian Labour Law Second tracking survey of Cambodian garment workers shows crisis hardships continuing to ease

News and events

Buyers' Forum discusses challenges in the garment sector

unions and GMAC. Employers and trade unions have recently discussed issues such as collective bargaining, binding arbitration for rights disputes and no strike prior to arbitration. This is seen as an important step towards improving the industrial climate in the country. At a breakfast meeting, a high-level representative of the RGC reiterated the government's support for Better Factories Cambodia. Buyers also expressed unwavering support for Better Factories Cambodia and plans for its future, which is currently under discussion. They also encouraged the RGC to recognize the importance of ensuring the continued sustainability of Better Factories Cambodia over the long term.

A buyer representative shares his ideas

S e c o n d t r a ck in g su r vey o f Cambodian garment workers shows crisis hardships continuing to ease

Better Factories Cambodia hosted its annual

This year's meeting also provided an opportunity to update participants on the global and regional Better Work programme. A brief review of the progress of the Better presented, as well as of future steps for the programme in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Morocco and Nicaragua. A more detailed overview of operations and services in Vietnam was also presented. Better Work Vietnam is expanding its team while increasing staff capacity, with a strong focus Vietnam is also implementing its Union Strengthening Project to ensure more comprehensive outcomes in its work. which focused on opportunities for buyer engagement in the Better Work programme and issues such as the future

Garment workers on their way to the factory

discussion space for representatives of leading clothing companies ordering from Cambodian factories, has been contributing to the success of the country's garment industry

To understand the financial and human impacts of the global economic downturn on the garment sector, specifically

representatives, as well as staff from Better Work Vietnam and the Better Work global team, the ILO in Bangkok, the various

The survey has tracked employed and unemployed garment factory workers over a period of six months starting in late

the adverse impacts of the crisis on their workforce. unions were also invited to take part in specific sessions of the meeting. date on the Better Factories Cambodia sustainability process and its alignment with the global Better Work programme. The meeting was also an occasion for Better Factories Cambodia to obtain buyers' views and ideas for concerted response on four issues of high relevance in the Cambodian means and importance of productivity gains for the garment industry; implementation of paid sick leave regulations at the factory level; and handling of subcontracting practices. On each of these issues, buyers sent a clear indication of their interest in seeing Better Factories Cambodia move forward with proposals for actions. Relations Specialist, based in Bangkok, provided the participants with a clear portrait of the industrial relations environment in Cambodia. Historically, the union environment has been highly fragmented. However, there has been an Better Work programmes in particular attracted a great deal developing comprehensive internal trainings to ensure a high The chance for buyers to discuss these issues in groups had a buyers also agreeing to take more ownership over the agenda tracking survey, employed workers reported that they had generally continued to see their hardships ease, as they had during the first tracking survey. The second survey found that employed workers were earning around $91 per month for a tracking survey. advancement of the Better Work programme in Vietnam. Even though the garment industry has reabsorbed some of the workers who were laid off during the crisis, net employment dropped over the course of the tracking survey, with the Better Factories Cambodia released its report on the second tracking survey, which had followed up with workers interviewed during the benchmarking and first follow-

emphasis on the minimum wage issue as well as the industrial relations situation in Cambodia. International buyers advocated for employers and unions to find a way to resolve recent strike issues and to return to discussions on how to improve dispute settlement and industrial relations in general in order to secure the continued competitiveness of the industry.

second one. Meanwhile, despite the gradual easing of hardships among employed workers, many workers are still recovering from prior to the benchmarking. Workers continue to resort to the same coping strategies in order to deal with their financial problems, namely, reducing remittances as well as spending on basic needs such as food, health care and accommodation. To see the detailed version of the study, please visit www.betterfactories.org.

Garment workers' radio

competition on Cambodian Labour Law

The radio competition was the result of collaboration ILO Better Factories Cambodia

workers, competed with one another via live broadcasts on the radio, which aired every Saturday afternoon for one hour. At the finals on 22 May, which were of an increased level of difficulty, the three finalists were asked to debate case studies using their knowledge of the Cambodian Labour Law. In previous rounds of the competition, they had had to of the Cambodian Labour Law, dealing with contracts, wages, working hours, overtime and leave, for example.

Competition winner Ms. Chhim Narin (right), with second-placed Mr. Phim Samrong (left) and third-placed Mr. Meas Pisith (centre)

the garment industry for the economic development of Cambodia," said Mr. Tuomo Poutiainen, Chief Technical Advisor of ILO Better Factories Cambodia. Mr. Ly Ping, member of the Cambodian Bar Association and a judge of the competition, felt that the competition had had huge benefits for the public and for garment workers, in particular in relation to increasing understanding of the law. Labour Inspection of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, also a competition judge, agreed that programme listeners would have been able to obtain a far better understanding of the law, given that the competition covered a large amount of what is stipulated in the legal text of the Cambodian Labour Law.

"The competition was really beneficial to me and to listeners, especially to garment workers, because they can now understand the law better." The other two candidates expressed their enthusiasm at having reached the final round, even though they did not win the championship. Both of them felt that they had improved their knowledge on the Cambodian Labour Law a great deal as a result of the competition. "The competition disseminated information on the Labour Law and on working conditions in the Cambodian garment industry, to both garment workers and the public, and also proved a useful means to highlight the importance of

in second and Mr. Meas Pisith, employed at the Willbes The three finalists competed in the last round of the competition on 22 May, after making it through all the

finalists in relation to interpreting the law, mostly gained through their own working experience.

News and events

Reaching the Goal:

Friendly football match between ILO and MoLVT

Football players from the ILO (blue and white shirts) and the Ministry of Labour (blue shirts)

friendly football match was organized between a team

Child Labour.

Upcoming Event

with staff from ILO Better Factories Cambodia and another of Labour and Vocational Training. The theme was "Go

team went 4-2 up against its opponents, but the situation Inspection team put pressure on its opponents and had shook hands after the match finished and congratulated each other in a heartfelt manner.

Open University: Training for

garment industry workers

Better Factories Cambodia, in collaboration with various partner organizations, is planning to hold a wide-reaching the basics of the Cambodian Labour Law. It is tentatively material produced for this event will then be widely

The main purpose of the match was to give the staff an opportunity to get some physical exercise, to strengthen

Profile of the winner

Chhim Narin, 23, is the youngest child of five. Her father is a construction worker and her mother is a housekeeper. Narin completed only primary school before dropping out. After dropping out of school, she started working for where she remained for "I was not really interested in the application form. I put it away. On the last day before the deadline I realized that, if the law was applied more in my workplace, it would be very helpful to me. Then I spent hours that night completing the form," she said. only 12 finalists were selected, using the written forms and phone call interviews. Contestants were paired up to compete via live radio broadcast. Narin was one of the 12 finalists. "I did not expect to be able to get through to the final round. I was not more competent than the others. I tried to answer based on what I had learnt from reading Better Factories Cambodia's Labour Law Guidebook and from my personal working experience," she said. On the way to becoming champion, Narin went through on the subject of leave, and then she triumphed on the topic of labour disputes and resolutions. In the finals, against two male competitors, Narin received the highest marks from the three judges for her elaboration on a case study in relation to dispute resolution.

will bring workers together in a one-day event where they will be able to avail themselves of information on their rights and responsibilities at work, and to learn how this is the foundation for sound industrial relations necessary event will allow workers to obtain access to information on social protection services available to them, as a way to encourage health and safety at work and in everyday life.

"Throughout the contest, I continued to get a clearer picture of the law, especially of the themes I discussed, such as leave and dispute resolution," said Narin. "I'm so excited that I won. I will try to develop my knowledge of the Labour Law and share my understanding with my friends and co-workers and everyone else who wants to know," she added. greater understanding of the Labour Law through listening and reading. She thinks that it would good if there were another competition, and also suggests further training on the Labour Law for garment workers as a way of raising their awareness.

She remains in this job today. Narin has spent hours at the factory, including doing a large amount of overtime, in order to earn more money. Previously, she did not care much about the law or about working conditions. One day, she picked up a piece of Labour Law to you?"

Interview Working effectively on common issues:

Better Factories Cambodia and unions

Cambodia. Thus, unions still have to work on developing a mechanism to share experiences, to try to learn from each other and to find ways to work effectively together on their common interests. These challenges are compounded by the great number of unions in existence in Cambodia. Engaging and working with employers and government does not mean that unions must have the same opinions as them; rather, this is a process of discussion and negotiation towards peaceful resolution and based on the law. Where I come have a wealth of experiences and lessons to draw on. Here and people are still learning how to adapt to its conditions. Nevertheless, there are some good and effective union leaders here. Both union members and union leaders need to fully understand their roles and responsibilities so that they can be taken seriously in their work. Better Factories Cambodia and unions do to support workers in the face of the global economic crisis? The global economic crisis is often referred to as something that business and government must respond to. It is vital that the voices of workers are also heard, because the concerns of labour are critical to global ecomomic recovery. It is also crucial to ensure that working conditions continue to improve rather than going backward. In practical terms, unions need to ensure that workers' salaries are maintained and that the amount is sufficient to live on. Workers' entitlements, such as annual leave and maternity leave, need to be implemented in the best way possible. Ensuring safety in the workplace and good working relationships and workplace cooperation are also essential. The key role of Better Factories Cambodia is to ensure continued decent working conditions and that workers are paid and treated according to the law. In addition, Better Factories Cambodia can play a role in analyzing the real impacts of the global economic crisis and following up on able to maintain their production, whether working conditions are in accordance with the law, whether subcontracting arrangements are making working conditions worse or better for workers and whether workers' access to entitlements based on the law is being fully respected or not.

needs genuine input from all of the three parties. Unions are critical to this ­ not just in relation to their ideas on how the programme should work and how it can be more effective, but also to ensure that the benefits are being realized. Better Factories Cambodia's support to the union role is essential. We cannot have real and sustainable improvement over the long term unless we have input from the trade unions as well as government and factory management. 2. There are many unions, what does Better Factories Cambodia need to consider when working with them? There are indeed many unions but, regardless of their different backgrounds and capacity levels, they all represent the voices of the workers. As such, Better Factories Cambodia has to be able to work with all of the different partners. This takes time and patience. We need to help them build their confidence so that they are able to effectively represent the workers and to reflect workers' views and interests. Unions may not be up to speed on business models or management perspectives, but they know the reality on the factory floor. To ensure real change and to maximize any benefits, we have to gain workers' trust and obtain insight into their perspectives ­ and this means working closely with all trade unions. 3. How important is it to have unions?

Ms. Alison Tate who has several years of experience working with unions spent recently some time as Better Work's advisor on Trade Union Capacity Building. Now she is working as the director of External Relations for International Trade Union Confederation.

It's very important to have unions. The multitude of unions relationship to democracy in the workplace. Good trade unions are democratic institutions whose members generate ideas to input into a company's operations. To genuinely represent the workforce, union leaders need a high level of skills, commitment and motivation, as they need to address many challenges in order to ensure benefits for their worker members. 4. How can unions work effectively?

aims to improve both compliance with labour standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. Here, Ms. Alison Tate shares her views on Better Factories Cambodia's engagement with unions and the potential of these organizations with regard to the industry's future. 1. What is noteworthy in Better Factories Cambodia's work with unions? What has made Better Factories Cambodia different from other programmes is the fact that it is a tripartite programme, composed of the government, the employers and the unions. The voices of the workers through the unions are very important in this, in both the development and the delivery of the programme. The long-term objective, of improving the industry's working conditions and competitiveness,

In order to be able to represent workers effectively, unions must be good at communication and very responsive to their members' needs. Also, they have to be capable of taking up vital issues, sometimes with government, sometimes with employers and sometimes with both. It seems that there are still a great many misunderstandings and disagreements among the parties in

New Resources

Documentary films show

the human side of the garment industry

A series of documentaries related to the garment industry has been produced, to educate the public about the reality of the industry through human interest stories showing the direct and indirect benefits of the sector. The documentaries cover a variety of perspectives, including those of factory owners, union representatives, street vendors and enterprise managers.

daily activities of people who benefit indirectly from the industry, including house renters, vendors and motortaxi drivers. worker returning to her hometown to visit her parents and to take them money. She enjoys a rest and time spent with her family. presents the daily work of a Cambodian female manager, and also shows her enjoying spending time with her family, especially her little children. To see trailer of the four short documentaries, please visit www.betterfactories.org .

Workplace will help employers and workers work together informal education and information dissemination.

to establish and implement a programme and policy on by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training in Better Factories Cambodia, and cover various subjects. This is a basic tool that all workplaces can use to manage actions. The guidelines help in establishing preventive measures and in building on existing safety culture at the workplace, with each workplace able to adapt the guidelines to their own context and situation.

An effective response:

Guidelines on HIV/AIDS in the workplace developed

A garment worker talks about her working life in the documentary film "A Day at the Factory"

can be organized effectively only if employers and workers productivity. Workers and employers can play a vital role in limiting the spread of the epidemic and in eliminating HIV-related the engagement of both parties ­ employers and workers. their health and safety agenda. In partnership, they will be in the workplace. The detail on the guidelines is available at www.betterfactories.org .

into a full working day at the factory, and shows a garment worker talking about her working life inside the factory. Also, workers are shown seeking information from union representatives about the process and benefits of becoming a union member.

This Newsletter is published by the ILO Better Factories Cambodia programme. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official views of the International Labour Organization. #9, St 322, Boeung Keng Kang 1 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia - PO Box 2642

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Newsletter No_16_Eng_V8.pdf