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Unions in Cambodia urge EU not to withdraw EBA benefit

25 November, 2019IndustriALL affiliates in Cambodia are calling on the European Union (EU) not to withdraw the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, as a step to protect garment workers’ employment in the country.

The EU initiated the procedure to suspend the EBA for Cambodia in February this year. A report is to be issued this month and the final decision will be announced in February 2020.

According to the EU, systematic violations of workers’ rights, including the right to strike, political repression and a crackdown on independent media, are behind the launch of the procedure.

However, Cambodian union leaders attending IndustriALL Global Union’s trade and workers’ rights training on 4-5 November in Phnom Penh expressed grave concern over the enormous impact of a suspension of the EBA scheme, as foreign investors have said they may move garment production to other countries, risking thousands of jobs in the process.

“750,000 workers are employed in the garment and footwear sector, and 20 per cent are members of unions affiliated to IndustriALL. Withdrawing the EBA will be a disaster for Cambodian garment workers,” said Pav Sina, president of Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW).

The Vice President of the Federation of Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) Mann Senghak added:

“Cambodian trade unions must urgently put aside any differences and unite to send a strong message to the EU that the trade preference scheme is of paramount importance for the survival of millions of Cambodian people dependent on the industry.”

“A critical decision like withdrawing EBA must take into account the social and economic rights of workers as human rights are interdependent and indivisible,” said Annie Adviento, IndustriALL South East Asia office regional secretary.

During the two days, 25 Cambodian unionists were trained on trade issues, as a follow up to the Asia Pacific trade and industrial policy meeting held June 2019.