Monks were expected to bless a garment factory that supplies Walmart Canada today after it was hit by two mass fainting incidents last week, a manager at the company that runs it said yesterday.
Heart Enterprise (Cambodia) Ltd human resource manager Van Channa also said the factory had corrected flaws identified by an inspection team from the Ministry of Labour, including poor ventilation, after the first fainting incident last Wednesday.
Van Channa said the monks would be called in to cleanse the factory of evil spirits at the request of workers. He said there would be a break this morning for monks to hold “a recitation ceremony to expel ghosts”.
Last Wednesday, more than 50 workers fainted at the factory and another 27 fainted on Friday, workers said. They claimed that prior to collapsing they felt fatigued and short of breath.
Yi Kithana, deputy director-general of the Labour Ministry’s occupational health department, said doctors had found the workers were fainting because they were weak and had low blood sugar. Many workers who fainted also suffered from mental illness, which caused them to panic after seeing their co-workers collapse, he said.
“We have yet to send psychiatrists to help them. Many do not know that they have mental illness,” he said.
The cause of mass fainting incidents that have hit the Kingdom’s garment factories since last month have been much debated.
Employees and union representatives have pointed to long working hours, workplace environments and poor pay: garment workers earn about US 30 cents per hour for their basic schedule of 48 hours of work per week.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said yesterday that he was unaware of the latest incident at Heart Enterprise, but that poor health, fatigue and “hysteria” all contributed to mass fainting at factories.
“It’s always a combination of many factors, the least of which would be what workers claim to be fumes from the fabric,” he said.
“The main observation of medical professionals who examine these workers that have fainted is that they all have low blood sugar,” Ken Loo added.
“I would assume that’s because they either skip breakfast or [eat] something which is extremely light.”
Ken Loo added that while poor ventilation in some facilities was a factor, he was “positive” it was not the main cause behind fainting incidents.
Walmart Canada has not responded to requests for comment, but it has been informed of the incident by the International Labour Organisation which monitors the factory through its Better Factories
Cambodia program, according to an ILO spokesman.