Garment factory workers ordered by management to sniff strong-smelling jeans appealed Saturday to the Cambodia Labor Organization for assistance in stopping the unhealthy practice, labor representatives said Monday.
The management of Cambodia Sportswear MFG Ltd in Meanchey district Saturday forced more than 200 workers to smell jeans reeking of mildew and chemicals to classify and wash the clothes, said Kork Meng, president of the factory’s Progressing Union.
The workers refused to execute the order, prompting the factory to recruit 30 temporary workers to smell the jeans, Kork Meng said.
“Those jeans contain chemical substances that are very harmful to the workers.” The temporary workers don’t realize they should be paid more for the work, otherwise they won’t be able to “afford to pay the doctor to cure them later,” Kork Meng said.
The factory management ordered the mass sniffing when the jeans’ buyer refused to purchase the garments because of their offensive odor, he said.
Factory lawyer Sar Samnang denied the jeans contained chemical substances and suggested that the garments began to smell after being stored in boxes while wet.
“The workers suspect the jeans contain chemical substances, but they can’t prove that,” Sar Samnang said, adding that smelling duties stopped Monday.
Kork Meng said he would bring the jeans to be examined by a doctor to prove that they contain chemical substances.
CLO legal supervisor An Nan said Monday that Cambodia Sportswear should take responsibility for the treatment of sick workers if the jeans are found to contain harmful chemicals.
“They don’t know the danger of chemical substances,” he said. He added that unemployment “forces workers to accept the risky work.”
Although the Labor Law prohibits factories from furnishing workers with unhealthy working conditions, food and substances, An Nan said the Labor Ministry likely would offer no help.
Seng Sakba, director of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor’s Employment and Manpower department, declined to comment on the case Monday.