Labour rights coalition urges road safety protection for Cambodian garment workers

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Garment workers arriving at their factory. The vast majority are female on minimum wage. Injury in a road traffic crash can mean extreme poverty for their families.
Garment workers arriving at their factory. The vast majority are female on minimum wage. Injury in a road traffic crash can mean extreme poverty for their families.
Cambodia’s Minister of Labour presided over the road safety workshop, held in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s Minister of Labour presided over the road safety workshop, held in Phnom Penh.
AIP Foundation CEO Mirjam Sidik presented the road safety strategy at the workshop.
AIP Foundation CEO Mirjam Sidik presented the road safety strategy at the workshop.
The coalition includes the ILO’s ‘Better Factories Cambodia’ programme, 7 international garment and footwear brands, German development agency GIZ and the Solidarity Center.
The coalition includes the ILO’s ‘Better Factories Cambodia’ programme, 7 international garment and footwear brands, German development agency GIZ and the Solidarity Center.

The safety of more than 600,000 Cambodian workers employed by the Garment and Footwear Sector as they commute to and from work is being addressed by a new coalition including AIP Foundation, the FIA Foundation’s regional road safety partner in SE Asia.

The journey to and from work is becoming increasingly hazardous for garment and footwear workers due to the continued use of unsafe and overloaded vehicles and the concentration of factories close to and alongside increasingly busy national roads. At least eighty per cent of garment and footwear workers are women. Despite increases in minimum wages for garment and footwear workers, rates of pay are still low and access to quality healthcare is limited. A serious road traffic injury can have lasting impacts and drive families into poverty.

National Social Security Fund (NSSF) data indicates that its scheme covered claims for workers who were involved in over 5,600 crashes in 2016, resulting in 7,446 casualties, of whom 103 were fatalities. Of these crash claims, NSSF data indicates that approximately 80% were from garment and footwear workers, with 43 fatalities in 2016. According to the latest police reports for 2017, in total there were 3,531crash cases reported resulting in 1,780 fatalities and 5,539 seriously injured on the roads of Cambodia. The WHO estimates that the actual number of road traffic deaths could be as high as 2,600.

The considerable exposure to road safety risks among garment and footwear workers is a matter of growing concern to garment and footwear sector stakeholders, who have established a Transportation Working Group to improve transportation safety for garment and footwear workers. AIP Foundation was approached by the International Labour Organization's (ILO) ‘Better Factories Cambodia’ programme on behalf of the working group to lead on the development of a Garment and Footwear Sector Road Safety Strategy.

On 22nd January 2018 AIP Foundation, in partnership with Better Factories Cambodia, GIZ, and the Solidarity Center, facilitated a stakeholder workshop in Phnom Penh gathering more than 120 participants to seek sector-wide endorsement and collaboration on the ‘Garment and Footwear Sector Road Safety Strategy’. The event was presided over by the Minister for Labour and Vocational Training and representatives from Cambodian government ministries, international clothing and footwear brands, factories, trade unions, embassies, development agencies, and other stakeholders.

At the workshop, AIP Foundation’s CEO, Mirjam Sidik, presented and discussed the Strategy paper, which aims for the safety of all garment and footwear workers, as they travel to and back from work. The strategy is based on the principles of the “Safe System” approach, focusing on four key areas: improving road safety management and accountability, safer infrastructure and planning, safer transportation options, and awareness and education for road users. The workshop supported the process of getting a sector-wide endorsement on the Garment and Footwear Sector Road Safety Strategy as well as sought inputs on translating the strategy into action.

The work of the AIP Foundation is currently supported with a core grant from the FIA Foundation.