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Cambodia's unions cry foul on fainting figures

Cambodia's unions cry foul on fainting figures

130103 05
Garment workers receive treatment at a hospital in Phnom Penh following a mass fainting in November 2012. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Union reps and government officials are offering significantly different – if both substantial – numbers in their year-end tallies of garment workers who fainted on the job in 2012.

The Free Trade Union yesterday announced that the number of workers to faint in factories rose to more than 2,100, while the government maintained the number had decreased in the past year, finishing at 1,686 workers.

Bad fumes and other poor working environment conditions, overtime work and low wages that kept workers in poor health contributed to a total of 2,107 garment workers fainting in 29 factories in the past year, the FTU reported.

The fainting numbers in 2012 marked an increase from 2011, when fewer than 1,800 workers fainted, said FTU president Chea Mony.

“The number of faintings of workers from year to year has not improved, because of poor standards of living,” he said.

The Anful garment factory in Kampong Speu saw the highest number of faintings in 2012, with about 300 workers passing out due to the spraying of insecticides, the FTU found.

Such incidents should prompt the government to pay more attention to the issue, Mony said.

He added that the government applied its attention to the issue for a short time after Prime Minister Hun Sen in May called for government action to prevent fainting, but the efforts had little long-term effect.   

In October, the Ministry of Labour initiated a campaign to teach factory employees the causes of fainting, a strategy labour activists said did not address causes of the problem.

Rather than employing such schemes, Mony said, the government should help ensure workers had security benefits, proper salaries and healthy working environments.

But Pok Vanthat, director of the Labour Health Department and chief of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training’s committee to prevent faintings, said the number of faintings his committee recorded showed a decrease from past years.

“We have that 1,686 workers fainted,” he said.

“That’s the exact number, because we have the Social Security Fund to help calculate the compensation for the workers’ treatment.”

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]
 

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