After Deadly Blast, Factory Closes; Compensation Talks Begin

After one worker was killed and seven were injured by an exploded steam generator at a factory that makes clothes for U.S.-based jeans giant Levi’s in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, workers were given the week off as repairs were made.

The union representing the workers said it was preparing its compensation requests while the family of Kul Samorn, the 45-year-old worker who was killed, said they declined an initial payment of $500 from the factory until they decided on a negotiating position.

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A security guard directs people away from an exploded steam generator inside the Zhen Tai Garment factory compound in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Wednesday. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

There has been no suggestion that the factory might face criminal charges over the incident, in which the generator exploded, soared 100 meters into the air and landed on a group of workers eating lunch in the cafeteria at the Zhen Tai Garment factory’s compound.

Kul Samorn’s sister-in-law, Kul Sanny, said she was on her way to their hometown in Svay Rieng province on Thursday to secure a death certificate for her sister before sitting down with factory representatives to discuss compensation. She said on Wednesday that she expected at least $1,000, and added on Thursday that the factory had already promised to cover funeral costs.

“The factory will offer compensation, but I don’t know how much the compensation will be,” she said.

Thong Soeun, a human resources manager for the Khmer Union Federations of Workers Spirit, which represents the majority of workers at the Chinese-owned factory in Sen Sok district, said the factory and National Social Security Fund were preparing to discuss compensation for the eight victims.

“They are studying how to compensate, how much money should be compensated to the deceased, how much for the minor injuries and how much for the seriously injured workers.”

A spokeswoman for Levi Strauss & Co. said on Tuesday that the brand would immediately begin investigating the incident, and ensure that victims were properly compensated.

Factory representatives and Labor Ministry officials could not be reached, and it remained unclear on Thursday what caused the explosion.

Doeun Dit, a 23-year-old Zhen Tai employee, said workers were still shaken.

“My feeling was so sad, shocked, scared and frightened,” she said. “Me and other workers are still worried because this just happened.”

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