Annual Buyer Forum: National and International Players Discuss Vision for a Competitive Garment Industry That Respects Labour Standards
The Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program held its Annual Buyer Forum in Phnom Penh on 21 September 2015. The forum brought together over 85 representatives from buyer partners and national stakeholders. The forum provided opportunities to engage in a conversation about the future of the industry, and the role and strategic focus of BFC as the program develops its next phase for 2016-18.
Esther Germans, BFC program manager, opened the meeting and provided updates on the program’s progress and key milestones. Shifting the focus to the future of the program, preliminary findings from initial consultations with stakeholders on BFC’s new phase were shared by Bill Salter (former ILO Country Director).
The forum continued to look ahead during the panel discussion moderated by Tara Rangarajan (Better Work Global Operations Manager) on visions for a competitive garment industry that upholds labour standards. The panelists were HE. Sok Sopheak (General Director of Trade Service, Ministry of Commerce), HE. Heng Sour (Chief of Cabinet & Director General of Labour and Vocational Training), Mr. Ken Loo (Secretary-General, GMAC), Mr. Ath Thorn (President of the Cambodian Labour Confederation), Julia Lee (Supply Chain Manager, H&M) and Harry Nurmansyah (Senior Director SEA, Adidas).
All the panelists recognised the significance of the sector in Cambodia both in terms of employment and economic growth, as well as its potential in the global garment industry. Panelist discussed concerns and opportunities around issues such as industrial relations, wages, productivity levels and the subcontracting sector. The panel discussion pointed to both progress made on several fronts as well as challenges and work ahead.
Two thematic sessions on ILO’s role in supporting constituents on minimum wages and industrial relations were delivered by Matthew Cowgill (ILO Programme Manager on labour standards in global supply chains, Bangkok) and John Ritchotte (ILO Industrial Relations specialist, ILO Decent Work Team, Bangkok).
Following the discussion on the industry, its challenges and potential, the focus of the forum moved back to the BFC program and its upcoming phase. Given the key role of buyer partners in the program, the final sessions were aimed at soliciting their views and inputs to inform BFC strategy development and help to identify areas for increased partnership.
Buyers’ representatives discussed priorities and action plans around worker safety, industrial relations, partnerships and stakeholder involvement, workers’ needs/welfare, and productivity. Participants confirmed the current strengths of the BFC program, the need for the expansion and deepening of its services and for a broader partnership with brands, and they recognized the potential for leveraging their own specific strengths of expertise with BFC’s and for better linking compliance to business performance.
The day concluded with final remarks by Esther Germans who highlighted the contributions and ideas that were generated during the day and the great opportunities for deeper collaboration that lie ahead.