Fumes Lead to Worker Collapses, Union Says

Dozens of workers fainted from heat and fumes at a Mean­chey district garment factory Monday, though most returned to work after receiving an injection or examination at local hospitals, police said.

“It’s hot and smells of chemicals inside the factory, that’s why they were so dizzy,” said district police chief Pol Muth.

Accounts varied on the number of workers affected at the locally owned Flying Dragon factory, which employs about 800 workers. Pol Muth said “more than 20” workers fainted, while the factory owner said 25 workers were sent to nearby hospitals. A union representative said 43 workers fainted.

The workers were spraying pesticides on the clothes to prevent moth and rat infestation and fainted due to improper ventilation, said George McLeod, international liaison officer for the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, citing workers inside the factory.

But factory owner Meas Sotha cited other reasons Wednesday. “The doctor said they are malnourished due to a lack of calcium,” he said. “They are tired because they went to see the exhibition at the Royal Palace [Sunday evening].”

In a recent survey of 30 factories by the International Labor Organization, 15 were found to be too hot or poorly ventilated. The survey did not include Flying Dragon.

In January 2001, Flying Dragon managers fired a dozen elected union representatives and 106 demonstrating workers after they tried to organize with the Free Trade Union, McLeod claimed. The factory made clothes for The Gap, a US-based company, which declined to renew its contract after the firings, McLeod said.

 

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