GENEVA – Garment sourcing hubs Myanmar and Cambodia have been named among 24 countries that will come under scrutiny by the International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards for alleged violations of international labour Conventions. The Committee on the Application Standards (CAS), which is made up of representatives of government, employer and worker delegates, checks how International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards ratified by member states are being applied.
Following the publication of the shortlist, governments are invited to respond and provide information on the case in question, which will be addressed in the plenary of the Conference.
In Myanmar, the committee notes several concerns relating to worker rights. Says its report: “In particular, the Committee notes the International Trade Union Confederation raises concerns about the numerous obstacles to the development of a robust trade union movement and provides a number of examples. The Committee further notes the Government’s detailed reply in relation to the cases raised.”
The report also expresses concern about the labour law reform process in Myanmar – essentially suggesting Myanmar is dragging its heels in terms of bringing its labour laws in line with internationally accepted standards.
Adds the report: “The Committee notes … the ITUC’s observations which, while acknowledging the initial steps taken by the Government to embark upon labour law reform on the basis of tripartite consultation, express concerns about this process, citing the Government’s refusal to fully share proposed texts and resistance to addressing major flaws. The ITUC further fears the possibility that amendments proposed by the Government may actually worsen the current legislative framework, referring in particular to views expressed by the Government that informal workers should not have the right to organise, while in fact tens of thousands of workers have already formed unions under the 2011 Labour Organization Law (LOL).”
Cambodia is also on the ILO’s list. Concerns have been expressed for some time about a number of controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists in Cambodia. Indeed, as we reported recently, the European Union has announced it will undertake a dedicated mission to Cambodia this summer to monitor its Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), an agreement whereby Cambodian goods reach the crucial European market tariff-free.
While losing some or all of its trading benefits with the EU would be a catastrophe for the country’s garment export sector, there is no doubt that Cambodia is sailing perilously close to the wind on human and labour rights issues; as, indeed, is Myanmar.