Opening Address to the Premiere of the Soap Opera Series "At the Factory Gates"

by Ms Christine Evans-Klock, Director of ILO Sub-Regional Office for East Asia

Statement | Phnom Penh | 05 April 2006

Excellencies, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, - and Stars of the Cambodian screen.

It is with great pleasure that I am here today. Yet again Camodia is leading the world in improving labour standards in its garment factories. Not with monitoring this time, but with workers’ education.

Today we will be launching At the Factory Gates – an innovative soap opera that combines entertainment with important social messages. The first two episodes of the At the Factory Gates series deal with the important issue of dispute resolution and rights and responsibilities of workers in conducting legal strikes. It does this in a way that is targeted at young women workers.

The soap operas will be shown on national TV. I want to thank the Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, H.E. Cham Prasidh , and the Minister for Information, H.E. Khieu Kanharith for their support in making sure that At the Factory Gates will be shown on TVK. We hope other networks will follow.

The making of At the Factory Gates is another example of how the Cambodian trade unions and employers’ associations, together with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and international buyers can work together for the benefit of all. The GAP Foundation , Cambodia ’s biggest buyer provided financial support for producing the soap operas. Both GMAC and union representatives were involved in the preparation work, the story lines, reviewing the screen plays and final editing. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will be taking the lead to work with our training teams when we use the soap operas and comics for factory based training. This is how good industrial relations should work and the ILO is proud to be involved in this endeavor.

Like all good initiatives - it can be tough to find backers the first time things are tried. GAP Inc not only showed its commitment to Cambodia but also that is prepared to back new ideas by funding the first 2 episodes of At the Factory Gates. Unfortunately a GAP Inc representative cannot be here with us today. But I want to take this opportunity to thank GAP Inc on behalf of the ILO for providing the funds to make this good idea a reality.

I am particularly excited about the involvement of Cambodia ’s brightest film stars. You have a special status as role models for young people in Cambodian society. When you speak others listen. We are grateful for your involvement in this important project. Of course the project could not have happened without the dedication and commitment of Nick Wood from Navigator Films, talented director Tith Thearith and your team of script writers - a phenomenal job! Jose Encinas has make At the Factory Gates come alive with his fantastic caricatures in the comic books. Congratulations.

But none of this would have happened without the cooperation of Nun Kuang factory and its workers. I want in particular to thank the manager Chris Yin- your support has been unbelievable. I understand you turned your factory upside down to accommodate the needs of a film crew and a set of actors. I understand you even gave up your office for the filming and agreed to play a cameo role in the second episode! Finding a factory in which to film was one of the biggest challenges we faced in making At the Factory Gates. We will be forever grateful that you were willing to step forward and help us out.

Today we are honoured with the presence and participation of:
· H.E Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce;
· H.E. Nhep Bunchin, Minister for Labour and Vocational Training

I would now like to introduce the Minister for Labour and Vocational Training, H.E. Nhep Bunchin. His on-going support for this project and dedication to the work of ILO Better Factories Cambodia in general is very much appreciated. As the representative of the Royal Government of Cambodia to the ILO, the Ministry for Labour and Vocational Training has a leadership role in the entire portfolio of ILO work in Cambodia – from combating child labour to building institutions for conflict resolution at the workplace. Thank you very much for these ongoing partnerships and for your support, Mr. Minister, for this work in the garment sector.

Finally, I would like to invite the Senior Minister and Minister for Commerce, H.E. Cham Prasidh to launch At the Factory Gates. Excellency, you have been a global visionary in your support for Better Factories Cambodia. Cambodia has indeed led the world in socially responsible production. Your support has been critical to the ongoing success of the Cambodia strategy of building a market niche of buyers concerned with labour compliance in their supply chains. You should be proud of the strong export and jobs growth in the garment industry since the end of quotas. It is a tribute to Cambodia that industry employment is up 7.5% and exports were up nearly 13% in 2005.

Excellency, Ros Harvey tells me that it was your idea to make a video to educate workers on promoting better dispute resolution. Better Factories Cambodia staff took up the challenge and made it a reality. As usual you have championed the cause and together with the Minister of Information, H.E. Khieu Kanharith ensured that At the Factory Gates will be shown on national television.

Before I close and we can start watching episode one, I want to thank all the staff of Better Factories Cambodia for their hard work in making At the Factory Gates a reality. This is one more example of the innovative work of this project, under Ros Harvey’s leadership the past two years, and provides one more “good practice” from Cambodian experience that the ILO can learn from and try to use in other places.

Of course none of this would be possible without the support of the core donors for ILO Better Factories Cambodia – AFD, USAID, RGC, GMAC, two union confederations and a range of international buyers who make a financial contribution. And remember...this is just the beginning. With funding support from USAID we will be making another 4 episodes of At the Factory Gates. I understand scripts are currently being written...but we are not going to talk about that. You will have to wait to see what happens.