A National Social Security Fund (NSSF) report obtained by the Post yesterday reveals that the July 19 death of a worker at a Kandal province garment factory that supplies H&M was caused by exhaustion due to excessive overtime work.
“After investigating the case, we have come to the conclusion that Vorn Sitha’s death was caused by exhaustion,” the report says. “NSSF’s working group considers this a work-related death.”
The revelation came days after Sam Onn of the NSSF said that 39-year-old Sitha’s death was not work related. Yesterday, Onn said he provided the inaccurate information by accident.
Prior to being found dead at the New Archid garment factory (an H&M supplier where Sitha had slept after his shift) by co-workers on the morning of July 19, he had worked from 7am until about 10pm four days in a row, the report reads.
“At the moment it’s peak season, very busy,” Bun Long, New Archid’s administrative manager said yesterday. “We regret to see our worker die in our factory.”
New Archid has paid Sitha’s family $3,000 and fellow workers collectively donated $872, Long said.
Sitha punched out at 10pm on the four nights preceding his death after beginning his day at 7am – a 15-hour day – but Long said Sitha often stopped working at about 9 or 9:30 and scanned his employee ID at 10. Cambodia’s labour law stipulates a 10-hour maximum workday.
Since Sitha’s death, the factory has suspended all overtime work and is recruiting new employees to work a night shift, Long said.
Overtime work at New Archid is voluntary and has only been offered this year in July, said Ung Sarith, one of Sitha’s co-workers. The need for extra income drives many employees there to put in as many hours as they possibly can.
“Sometimes we do not care about our health, because earning the money is more important than worrying about our health,” Sarith said.
While the factory allowed Sitha to work these hours, Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said H&M shares part of the blame for failing to make a larger effort to ensure employees at supplier factories earn a living wage.
“H&M is claiming they pay a fair wage, and now a worker at one of their [supplier] factories has died from overwork,” Tola said. “That is shame for H&M.”
H&M did not reply to an email from the Post by press time yesterday.