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Enthusiasm for the Seminar on Social Dialogue in Cambodia

Today CNV Internationaal andFair Wear Foundation were supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conducting a seminar on social dialogue in the Cambodian textile and clothing sector. Some 80 representatives from clothing brands, factories, trade unions, social organisations, and governments gathered both on and offline (in Phnom Penh) to learn from each other about the benefits of social dialogue.

The Cambodian textile and clothing industry is largely dependent on the buyers from European and North American brands. This sector is currently being affected by both the partial and temporary suspension of trade preferences of the EU EBA and the Covid19 pandemic as many brands have had to cancel their orders. More than ever, cooperative efforts are needed to support the textile sector and strengthen the position of its workers.

The goal of the seminar was to bring together Cambodian factories, Cambodian union representatives, and Dutch clothing brands to discuss the importance of social dialogue and how it leads to improved labour relations. Clothing brands and factories shared their experiences and positive results achieved by engaging in social dialogue with their workers. We hope this enthusiastic start will lead the clothing brands to implement social dialogue more often and in practical ways, for example, by contacting their suppliers and looking at how they can cooperate with their trade unions.

“The seminar gave us insight into how much freedom of assembly people have now in Cambodia. We have learned what steps need to be taken in order to improve working conditions for the suppliers. It was a great chance for us to have some good conversations!”

The 4 Cambodian trade unions introduce themselves

Social dialogue and freedom of assembly

Throughout the Covid19 pandemic, all around the world, we have seen how consistent social dialogue puts workers and employers in better positions to face their challenges and find solutions together.

Freedom of assembly is a necessary condition for authentic and effective social dialogue. In Cambodia, unions are still confronted with multiple challenges when it comes to organising workers, even though their government has officially ratified ILO Conventions 87 (freedom of assembly) and 98 (the right to collective bargaining). One of these challenges is the long existing tension between unions and employers. This tension has created a major rift between the two groups and continues to keep them from working together. Creating more mutual understanding and eliminating fears is essential to achieving social dialogue and stronger labour relations.

“If you want to find out whether your supplier ensures trade union freedom, you will need to ask for details. How are the representatives chosen? How do they consult with their members? How often does the union meet with management?”

Publication date 19 01 2021