The COVID -19 pandemic has seen dramatic disruption to the garment industry in Cambodia. Factories have been squeezed at both ends, with shortages of raw materials being felt in February and many orders from overseas buyers suspended or cancelled. As at the end of last week 55 factories had suspended employing 38 000 workers have been suspended until April 20, the end of the Khmer New Year. With the spread of the virus, more suspensions are likely.
Since the beginning of March, in-person assessments, advisory and training services have been temporarily suspended and BFC staff are working from home. Instead, the team is targeting factory worker/management or bipartite committees using computer cameras and projectors. The length of meetings has been shortened and content adjusted for the new format. Participants, usually eight or fewer, are asked to practice social distancing in the meeting rooms.
Presentations are exclusively focused on dealing with the virus and present best practices on OSH issues, hygiene, virus protection, and dealing with illness. Committee members relay the information to workers on the factory floor. According to Better Factories Cambodia head, Sara Park, there are ‘huge’ knowledge gaps when it comes to workers understanding the risks and how to minimise them.
Better Factories Cambodia is also holding industry seminars for factory managers and owners. In the most recent example, representatives from 103 factories participated in a March 27 virtual seminar on virus prevention, precautionary measures and controls, and where to find detailed information. A follow up seminar is scheduled to follow.
The programme has also been distributing materials from the World Health Organisation and the ILO, as well as developing in-house PowerPoint presentations and other resources for remote delivery.
Better Factories Cambodia was well placed to make the switch to an online service model, as it had been trialling virtual advisory services since February as part of an effort by the program to increase the scale and of its work.