Mass Faintings at Factories in Cambodia; More Than 200 Workers Fall IllBy: Kathy Karadza - April 4, 2014
More than 200 garment workers have fallen ill this week in textile factories in Cambodia, workers and the companies said on Thursday.
A total of 118 employees passed out at work on Thursday at the factories run by Shen Zhou and Daqian Textile in Phnom Penh, police said. Workers also fell ill at a third factory run by New Wide this week.
Two of the factories in which workers have fallen ill produce clothing for sportswear groups Puma SE and Adidas.
The labor rights group Community Legal Education Center said that more than 200 workers fainted this week.
“It was hot and I began to vomit, I had diarrhea and others had the same problems,” said Nguon Sarith, 30, who was hooked up to an intravenous drip at a hospital in the capital.
Sarith said she did not know the why she fell ill, but suspected it may have been food poisoning.
Both Puma and Adidas said that investigations were underway, and that affected staff was receiving medical treatment.
Representatives from Puma met with police and workers, and samples of food from the canteen at Shen Zhou were sent to a lab for analysis to determine whether food poisoning was causing employees to get sick, the company said.
Tainted food, poor working conditions and the spraying of insecticide are suspected causes, according to Khim Sunsoda, deputy governor of Pur Senchey district, where the incidents occurred.
Garment manufacturing earns Cambodia more than $5 billion a year in revenue and employs about 600,000 people. It is an important manufacturing center for many street brands, and many of those who work in the factories are breadwinners for poor families who live in Cambodia’s countryside. The recent fainting incidents are a blow to the industry, which is critical to Cambodia’s economy.
The industry has been rife with unrest recently, with disputes over wages escalating over the past several months.
Eighteen unions plan to hold a week-long strike starting on April 17 to demand a minimum wage rise to $160 monthly from the current $100. The last strike was put down by authorities on January 3, when live ammunition was used to disperse crowds, leaving five workers killed.
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