A total of 118 garment workers fainted at factories in Cambodia, including two that manufacture clothes for big sports brands Adidas, and Puma. The workers passed out while working at the Shen Zhou and Daqian Textile factories located in Phnom Penh.
Adidas and Puma are still investigating the incident and are expected to make a statement soon.
According to Khem Saran, district police chief, they still have no idea why the factory workers collapsed, but said that in another factory, 53 workers fell ill because of strong paint fumes.
Reports from a labor rights group state that over 200 factory workers have collapsed this week alone.
Mass fainting is not an uncommon happening in factories in Cambodia. The country has become a manufacturing hub for a lot of fashion brands. In the year 2011, over 1,000 faintings were reported to have occurred in factories that were owned by the South Koreans, Taiwanese, and Chinese.
Garment manufacturing is a $5 billion business in Cambodia. It gives work to around 600,000. Most of the factory workers come from underprivileged families who reside by the countryside. The majority of the workers earn less than $100 each month, and some opt to work overtime just to increase their daily income.
Many of the garment workers have complained of poor working conditions. They say that strong chemicals are used in their work area and that there is poor ventilation, which may be the reason so many of them have fallen ill. Investigations have been done in recent years, but they were inconclusive.
Nguon Sarith, one of the factory worker who fainted said, “It was hot and I began to vomit, I had diarrhea and others had the same problems.”
These illnesses are just one of the problems these factory workers face. They have also been fighting for higher wages. During a strike in January, authorities fired rounds to disperse unruly crowds, which left five workers dead. Unions are again planning a strike on April 17 to demand a wage hike from $100 to $160.
Factory working conditions in Cambodia have been poor for some time now.
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