Fainted workers from Vattanac Industrial Park II where workers report that up to 2-3 workers faint each day producing for Target Department Stores and others.
Last week on 15 November, 2012, the Community Legal
Education Center (CLEC) monitored yet another incident of mass fainting in the
Cambodian garment industry. Over two days more than 140 Cambodian garment
workers fainted in factories located in Phnom Penh’s, Vattanac Industrial Park
II. Among the factories implicated were Moha Garments Co. Ltd, Dongdu Textile
(Cambodia) Co. Ltd, Papillion Textile (Cambodia) Co. Ltd and Newpex Co. Ltd.
Workers reported headaches and dizziness after a strong
medicine-like odor filled the factories on Wednesday afternoon (14 November,
2012). Workers scrambled to exit the building but many were unable, losing
consciousness and falling faint. Workers reported that around 150 were affected
with at least 60 hospitalized.
Extraordinarily, the factories in Vattanac Industrial Park
II remained open the following day (15 November, 2012). Upon entering the
factories at 7:00am, reports indicated that more than 150 workers immediately
lost consciousness and fell faint with more than 80 hospitalized, some for more
than six hours. Others reported helping co-workers into tuk-tuks bound for the
hospital then returning to their rooms only to fall unconscious themselves.
Pong Toeuk and Anlong Romeit health clinics received around
140 fainted workers over the two days. Many others were sent to facilities of
Po Chen Tong and Molumith, with workers putting the number affected at over
For too long now the constant threat of losing consciousness
during a shift has been a reality for Cambodian garment workers. In 2011, mass
fainting affected at least 2,391 garment workers. In 2012, CLEC alone has
received reports of more than 1,100. Despite assertions that this is merely an
occupational health and safety issue, impoverished workers will continue to
faint regardless, until the minimum wage of US$61 per month is raised and the
use of fixed duration contracts as short as 3 months is eradicated.
Fainted workers from Moha Garments Co. Ltd, reported “we
must work overtime 5 days a week. We are employed under 3 month contracts. If
we don’t work overtime the supervisor is angry. They curse us and they blame
us...If we go to the toilet too many times during a shift, maybe more than
twice, they start to investigate.”
This is a common fear for more than 80% of Cambodian garment
workers who are employed under fixed duration contracts. Refusing overtime,
claiming benefits such as annual, sick or maternity leave or exercising the right
to join an independent trade union will often result in the non-renewal of a
fixed duration contract. The overwhelming majority of Cambodian garment workers
live in constant fear of disappointing their employer and are exploited
accordingly. The fainting is not isolated, and not merely an OH&S issue.
Workers reported that in Vattanac Industrial Park II up to 2-3 workers faint
Shipping records indicate that the international department
store, Target, received more than 10,000 kg of garments, from Moha Garments Co.
Ltd less than 2 weeks before the fainting. Further, and Kohl’s Department
Stores received more than 29,000 kg in November alone, whilst Hanesbrands Inc
and Abercrombie and Fitch have all sourced from the factory in the last 4
CLEC demands a statement from all implicated brands
acknowledging the incident. Further, an effective and transparent
investigation, addressing the needs of workers and breaches of relevant laws
and policies, a corrective action plan to improve conditions in Vattanac
Industrial Park II, and regular and transparent follow up inspections.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Tola Moeun, Head of
Labor Program, +855 66 777 056
Mr. Joel Preston, Consultant, +855 66 777 037