Almost 145 workers at the YGM (Cambodia) Ltd garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district fainted mysteriously while working between Friday and Monday, union and factory officials said Tuesday.
The workers were treated at three hospitals in the city.
All have recovered, said Khann Borin, chief of administration at the factory, adding that some workers returned to work Tuesday despite receiving permission to remain at home until Thursday.
Both union and factory officials said malnutrition and exhaustion were most likely to blame, rather than conditions at the factory.
“Officials from the Ministries of Health and Social Affairs have investigated why the workers fainted,” he said. “The results are not clear because the environment around the factory is normal. We have provided workers with enough fresh air.”
Khann Borin said that doctors at Calmette and Preah Kossamak hospitals told him workers had low blood sugar levels due to poor diets.
He also said that workers told hospital officials that many were working at other factories during the night and felt exhausted.
Ynag Phany, leader of YGM’s Independent Workers Union, agreed that the factory’s conditions were not to blame and that workers had begun fainting in front of the factory before venturing inside.
Collective fainting has been reported at Phnom Penh’s garment factories in the past.
According to the International Labor Organization’s factory monitoring report in August, YGM had no problems with ventilation or heat, but it had not ensured that a nurse or doctor was on duty at the facility to look after its 1,976 workers.
Khann Borin said that YGM has hired health officials to monitor this week staff.
Malnutrition is increasingly common among Cambodia’s mostly female garment workers, said Mann Seng Hak, deputy secretary-general of the Free Trade Union.
He added that to stay healthy a worker has to spend between $30 and $35 a month on food and rent, leaving little of an average $70 salary to be sent home to needy relatives in the provinces.
“Workers’ salaries remain low while the prices of goods increase each day…they try to spend little money on food,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)