The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has pledged to continue its collaboration with the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS) and other stakeholders. This move is aimed at bolstering the garment sector’s exports once the new government is established, according to minister Ith Samheng.

The announcement came during his meeting with ACILS country director William Conklin at the ministry headquarters in Phnom Penh on July 4, according to a press release.

In the meeting, Samheng highlighted that enhancing the health and safety of workers could propel the export of textile products to overseas markets, particularly the US and Europe.

He stressed that Cambodia would continue to work with its partners to further develop the labour sector, boost workers’ conditions and increase the export of textiles, apparel, footwear, bags and travel goods abroad.

“Cambodia is one of the countries that has ratified the most International Labour Organisation [ILO] conventions, and Prime Minister Hun Sen is the only one who directly meets with workers and has addressed many of their issues,” Samheng said.

He appealed to partners to assist in promoting decent working conditions within Cambodia to further enhance purchase orders and exports.

During the meeting, Conklin discussed their progress and expressed a desire to continue the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the labour ministry, as the current agreement is set to expire on July 28.

“If the MoU is renewed, we would like to expand our cooperation, especially on the promotion of occupational health and safety, traffic safety, minimum wage, social security, maternity protection, the elimination of violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and climate change,” he said.

Responding to the request for MoU renewal, Samheng said ACILS’s objectives aligned well with the ministry’s aims and the government’s policy direction. He underscored the need for consistent practice in the sector.

Hong Vannak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, emphasised that the promotion of occupational health and safety for workers required support from relevant partners.

“As we all know, most of our garment exports go to Europe and the US, which demand good working conditions. Therefore, promoting occupational health and safety for workers is a priority that we must continue to uphold,” he said.

The labour ministry and ACILS have signed the MoU twice before, first on January 22, 2018, valid until January 22, 2021, and then on July 28, 2021, which is valid until July 28 this year. The second MoU aimed to boost technical cooperation between the ministry and ACILS to aid in implementing labour-related policies based on the ministry’s specific needs.