Opposition MP Mu Sochua yesterday called for a boycott of global sports brand Nike, following two fainting incidents at a factory that supplies it last week.
She also warned that global brands and the Cambodian government were taking a huge gamble by failing to address the causes of the mass fainting incidents that have plagued the country’s most lucrative export industry.
“This is economic exploitation on the back of workers to the point that they are fainting,” she told the Post, adding that the Labour Ministry lacked the expertise and training to get to the root of the problem.
Global brands should be sending experts to investigate working conditions at the factories that supply them, she said, adding it was possible conditions at some factories could cause long-term damage to workers’ health.
“Some of these women are pregnant,” she said, referring to the 970 workers the Labour Ministry estimated fainted at garment and footwear factories in the first three months of this year.
Mu Sochua also took aim at the ministry, saying it was failing to protect workers.
“The ministry has no respect for workers’ rights or human rights,” she said.
Her comments followed three fainting incidents last week, two of which occurred at a factory that supplies Nike: Sabrina (Cambodia) Manufacturing.
On Friday, 195 workers fainted at its factory in Kampong Speu after 107 fainted there on Wednesday.
A further 28 workers fainted at Mirae Apparel in the capital’s Meanchey district on Friday, said Meng Hong, a member of a panel set up by the Labour Ministry to probe and prevent mass faintings.
A 'big risk'
“The brands are taking a big risk,” Mu Sochua warned. “Consumers are beginning to learn what’s going on.”
Dave Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said the problem was unnecessary.
He said both the government and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia were deeply concerned about the faintings and that the onus was on the brands to help alleviate the underlying conditions.
“The buyers are the ones who are making out like bandits,” he said.
Welsh identified the causes of the faintings as poor nutrition, forced overtime and poor occupational health and safety, saying all three were easily fixable.
Sochua said the faintings would continue until workers mobilised to ensure their rights were respected.
Meng Hong said his committee would monitor both factories today to ensure they had been sanitised and their ventilation systems improved.