WASHINGTON – A group of the world’s leading apparel brands have written to the president of Cambodia urging him to address ongoing labour concerns in the country or risk losing trade benefits with the US and EU. Adidas, Puma, VF Corp, Levi’s, Lululemon and Esprit are among signatories to the letter, backed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association.
The EU is currently reviewing Cambodia’s benefits under Everything But Arms, and the US government may take a look at Generalized System of Preferences benefits due to the flouting of labour laws, including union bashing, in Cambodia’s garment industry.
Says the letter: “We represent organisations and companies that have an interest in Cambodia. Our work with suppliers in Cambodia contributed to the US$9.5bn in garment, footwear, and travel goods exported from Cambodia last year. Many of the companies signing this letter have been sourcing from Cambodia since the garment sector was established in Cambodia in the mid-1990s.
“In May 2019, a group of companies wrote to you regarding the concerns we had regarding the labour situation in Cambodia. That letter was preceded by a delegation of brands meeting with Cambodian government officials in October 2018 and a subsequent November 2018 letter with similar concerns. Since that time, the Government of Cambodia has rescinded some of the criminal charges against union leaders, has restored some of the unions’ ability to access the Arbitration Council, and has proposed amendments to the Trade Union Law. Despite this progress, many of the issues raised in the letter remain valid.”
The letter calls on Cambodia to amend its trade union laws which, it is claimed, fall short of international standards. It also calls for an end to laws which currently “enable an atmosphere of harassment and repression against civil society organisations and unions.”
Another request is that Cambodia drops all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders and ceases further judicial proceedings against labour activists.
Adds the letter: “The credibility of Cambodia’s apparel, footwear, and travel goods sectors are at stake. We urge the government of Cambodia to publicly present a roadmap, together with an inclusive tripartite national mechanism, that sets out, and implements, specific, concrete, and time-bound steps to bring Cambodia in line with international standards on the above issues.”