By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodian factory workers have been forced to work overtime beyond the limits allowed by law in poorly ventilated buildings contributing to recent incidents of mass fainting.
The recent faintings have occurred in the country’s textile industry where a union activist claims harmful chemicals are present and at least partially at fault for the fainting of workers.
Approximately 200 factory workers at the Nanguo Garment Co. Ltd. in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh fainted on Monday while working.
Although the Ministry of Labor medical department director has reported that tests reported no signs of toxic chemicals, workers who were taken to the hospital after fainting reported to Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia president Chea Mony that the factory had recently sprayed pesticide around the premises.
A female worker explained her experience by stating that “…I saw a few workers faint, and then others. We were shocked, and we all began to cry.” She then added that had felt exhausted and could not move before fainting.
The International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Program has reported that within a six month time span in 2011 at least 1,500 workers from eleven different factories have reported fainting.
In addition, in August almost 300 people fainted in one week while working in a factory supplying popular clothing store H&M. In addition, another 100 people were reportedly taken to the hospital after fainting at M&V International Manufacturing factory.
Last April, approximately 100 workers fainted at a factory supplying Puma and another forty-nine fainted at the same factory two months later.
Just one week before the mass faintings, workers in Cambodia held a people’s tribunal to investigate the pay and conditions of factories for brands such as H&M and Gap.
Given the history of faintings at a factory supplying H&M products, many were unhappy at the company’s decision not to attend the people’s tribunal.
The minimum wage in Cambodia is $66 per month which is half of what is required to meet the basic needs. As a result, workers are often forced to work ten to thirteen hours a day to get the money that they need to support their families.
For more information, please see:
Radio Free Asia – Faintings Blamed on Overwork, Ventilation – 14 February 2012
The Guardian – Cambodian Workers Hold ‘People’s Tribunal’ to Look at Factory Conditions – 2 February 2012