Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Ministry of Labour officials to quickly investigate and resolve problems leading to recent mass faintings at factories in Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh during meeting with the Council of Ministers on Friday.
Last week around 300 workers fainted at M&V International Manufacturing Ltd in Kampong Chhnang and on Friday more than 40 workers fainted at the Chimly garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district.
Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng ordered the Chimly factory owners to temporarily suspend work so that officials could investigate the mass fainting.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation Union, said yesterday that the workers fainted due to the smell of fumes and generally stuffy circumstances that cause them to become physically weak.
“We think the initial reason workers fainted is the bad environment [in the factories] and secondly the workers don’t eat enough or receive vitamins. They spend only 500 to 1000 riel per meal on food,” Rong Chhun said.
However, he said he had not seen ministry officials ensure factory owners create environments that benefit the physical health of workers.
“We are following this problem because we want the Labour Ministry to investigate this case that involves not only one factory but several factories,” he said.
The president of the Cambodian Union Workers Noun Chhenghour said that workers from M&V International Manufacturing would return to work at the company’s Kampong Chhnang factory today after last week’s mass fainting.
Last week’s mass faintings prompted concern from the International Labour Organisation, which monitors garment factories here through the Better Factories Cambodia programme to ensure they are compliant with Cambodian law and international standards.
“The nutritional status of workers is not an element that is reflected in the Cambodian Labour Law,” it said.
“It is nonetheless a preoccupying situation. It goes beyond the immediate mass fainting incidents that we are seeing. And it goes beyond the garment industry,” it said.
“In conjunction with other UN agencies, and with the support of the Spanish government, the ILO is working on this issue, producing informational material and discussing how the industry could provide sustainable solutions to this sad situation, to everyone’s benefit: the workers and the factories,” it added.
Global brand H&M, which is a buyer of knitwear from M&V, also expressed concern last week, saying it was preparing “for a thorough in depth analysis”. It said it was and teaming up with external experts to find the “root causes and solutions to these discomforting incidents”.