A further 90 workers fainted at a garment factory in Kompong Cham province yesterday after more than 100 workers passed out at the same factory last week, union representatives said, although a factory doctor said only 20 additional workers had fainted.
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony blamed the series of mass faintings on chemical fumes from clothing and poor ventilation at the Mohatan garment factory in the province’s Kompong Siem district.
“Those garment workers lost consciousness owning to the fact that the cloth carried chemical substances,” he said.
Mr Mony said the FTU wrote to Labor Minister Vong Sauth yesterday asking the ministry to intervene.
“I want the Labor Ministry and other relevant ministries to inspect the environmental conditions at this factory,” he said.
Mr Mony also called on the factory owners to suspend operations for three days to clear any fumes.
Labor Minister Mr Sauth could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“The government’s delegation is working on this issue,” Cheng Heang, director of the Kompong Cham labor department, said yesterday before declining to comment further.
Taing Yuth, a doctor at Mohatan factory, said only around 20 workers were affected yesterday, though he agreed that poor ventilation had contributed to the fainting.
“The factory owner has to renovate the ventilation system,” he said, adding that provincial environment department officials are set to inspect the factory today.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor have a mandate to check and report monthly on conditions at places of employment, according to Moeun Tola, head of the labor project at the Community Legal Education Center. He called for these reports to be made public to ensure inspections are carried out in accordance with the law.
“There is a long-running issue that the labor inspectors have failed to fulfill their role…. Unions should hold [them] accountable,” Mr Tola said.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said conditions at garment factories were generally of a high standard as they are monitored by the International Labor Organization as well as the Labor Ministry.
“It is very convenient to blame [mass faintings] on fumes or chemicals…. Garment factories don’t really deal with a lot of chemicals,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Ian Williamson)