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Brands try to defuse Cambodian unrest

A project to improve industrial relations in Cambodia’s garment industry has been launched and Swedish fashion company H&M is giving financial support to the project. It aims to address some of the core challenges at the heart of industrial relations in Cambodia, and to provide training and capacity building to facilitate necessary improvements. The project will work intensively in a select number of H&M supplier factories, many of which have several trade unions.

It will provide training and awareness-raising to eliminate unlawful practices, including bribery and corruption, and promote enterprise-based approaches based on collective bargaining and gender equality. The aim is to improve unions’ ability to genuinely represent workers and encourage unions and employers to engage in collective bargaining.

For the garment industry as a whole, the project will provide training to factory management, unions and other stakeholders to improve communication and negotiation skills. This collaborative effort involving national and international partners is expected to bring significant benefits to both the industry and Cambodian workers.

Cambodia’s garment industry is regularly plagued with strikes and protests. Statutory minimum wages determined by national governments and industries usually fall short of workers’ demands. Unlike other garment-producing countries, where factories are not concentrated in big cities, Cambodia only has one main manufacturing hub: its capital city. Workers as a result have to pay very high living costs to stay near where they work.