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Cambodia’s Factory Monitoring Program Fails to Protect Workers, Study Says

According to a recent investigation, the Better Factories Cambodia monitoring program (BFC) fails to protect workers, and needs serious reform. The BFC  has safeguarded safety conditions and worker rights in Cambodian apparel factories for the past 11 years, but a new report released by the Worker Rights Consortium and Stanford Law School reflected “serious doubts” about the BFC’s abilities.

The report, ominously titled “Monitoring in the Dark,” claims that since the BFC’s establishment in Cambodia, wages have fallen, job security has become more scarce, and temporary contracts have become more common.

The report also calls collective bargaining between workers and employers “elusive,” and accuses BFC of “a glaring lack of transparency and an institutional over-emphasis on protecting the interests of factory owners and international buyers, rather than responding to appeals from garment workers to protect them from abuse.”

Despite these concerns, the BFC, which is run by the International Labor Organization (ILO), has served as a model of apparel factory monitoring programs, and has been replicated in several other countries. The authors of the Stanford report claim that positive public perceptions about Cambodian factories have made institutional change difficult.

The authors call for retailers and stakeholders to take “more effective action, on their own, to improve conditions for Cambodian garment workers, and to support a set of measures to make BFC a more effective agent for achieving such progress.”