Women who had fainted in a poorly ventilated garment factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning were making winter coats to be sold at Walmart stores in Canada, it was revealed yesterday.
Executives with Taiwanese-owned Heart Enterprise (Cambodia) Ltd also confirmed reports that employees had been working as many as four hours of overtime a day, six days a week, at the factory, in the capital’s Dangkor district.
Regular working hours add up to 48 hours a week, and the monthly wage is US$61.
“It is not illegal for employees to work overtime if they volunteer to do it,” the company’s human resources manager, Van Channa, said.
Van Channa said most of the more than 50 women who collapsed in the factory on Wednesday morning had recovered and only “a few” remained in hospital yesterday. The factory will resume operations today, but workers who are still sick can remain at home, he said.
He also said the factory was under pressure to fill its orders by the end of September and that mass fainting was a problem because it might result in orders not being filled. A combination of factors led to the fainting incident, including difficulty breathing due to poor ventilation and fatigue, he added.
Orders at the factory surged to supply clothing in time for winter in Canada, executives said, confirming data showing a sharp rise in shipments from the factory to North America during the hottest months in Cambodia.
Ou Bora, shipping manager at Heart Enterprise, told the Post that Walmart Canada was the factory’s main buyer and that workers produced winter coats for adult men and women.
Walmart Canada has been informed of the fainting incident through the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories program, which monitors the factory, but executives from the massive retail chain have yet to contact Heart Enterprises about the incident, Heart Enterprise executives said.
Bun Ying, a communications assistant with ILO Better Factories Cambodia, said: “We have supplied information on the fainting at the Heart Enterprise to them [Walmart] as we usually do.” Previously, the ILO had declined to identify the brand the factory was supplying. Walmart Canada could not be reached for comment yesterday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA