Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Work accidents denied by factory

Work accidents denied by factory

Work accidents denied by factory

T ONLE BET, KAMPONG CHAM - Workers at a wood processing factory here complain

they are being exploited by cruel bosses who make them work in dangerous

conditions.

Injuries - including the loss of toes or fingers - regularly

occur at the factory, according to staff.

Two workers are said to have

died this year, one after being hit by falling machinery and the other after

being refused leave to visit a doctor for treatment for a fever.

The

factory's owner, the Chinese company Mieng Ly Heng Import Export, denied the

allegations. A spokesman said the factory had a good safety record.

But

workers told the Post that many injuries had been caused by the heavy iron

rollers and cutting equipment used at the factory, which produces timber

sheeting.

They said that the rollers often fell off their carriers,

hitting staff, while the cutters slipped and sliced into the hands or feet of

workers. Injuries were particularly common with tired staff who were working

overtime.

One worker, who spoke on condition she was not named, said

injuries happened most weeks. The factory had no medical clinic and supervisors

were reluctant to let staff leave work to find a doctor unless they were

seriously hurt.

She said two workers had died this year. Sien Nary, 24,

had died a few days after being struck on the back by a falling roller. Vuth

Chantha, 28, died from a severe fever one day after the company finally gave her

permission to leave the factory to see a doctor. For several days earlier, her

supervisor had maintained that she was fit to work.

The worker who spoke

to the Post said company officials had said they would not pay any compensation

to the families of staff who died outside the factory.

"They are very

clever. You know sometimes the workers do not die instantly in the place after

the accident, they must go to hospital or their houses."

She said one

worker who was hurt after falling from a wall last year received 50,000 riel

compensation.

Others had received nothing. She herself had the tip of one

toe sliced off in an accident, and on another occasion had been struck on the

chest by a roller.

The company reduced the salary of workers who were off

work after being injured, and threatened to dismiss them if they were away for

more than three days, she said.

Another worker showed the Post her

finger, cut off at the first joint in what she said was a workplace

accident.

She also told the story of a colleague refused permission to

leave the factory after cutting her finger to the bone.

The woman's

supervisor, angry that she was crying and had stopped work after the accident,

grabbed a wood cutter and sliced off her injured finger completely, she

said.

The Mieng Ly Heng factory, which opened in April last year, has

more than 300 staff.

Workers said they had asked to work 8 hours a day,

but the company insisted, on threat of dismissal, that they do three hours

overtime.

A Post reporter attempted to enter the factory but was stopped

by guards.

At the Mieng Ly Heng Import Export company's office in Phnom

Penh, spokesman Sok Ny denied all the workers' complaints.

He said the

factory did not have a history of accidents, and it was impossible for workers

to cut their fingers or hands.

He believed the Post had confused his

factory with a neighboring Malaysian-owned sawmill, where he said there had been

some accidents. Workers, however, later confirmed it was the Mieng Ly Heng

factory they worked at.

Sok Ny said there had been only one accident at

the factory, when an iron roller fell on a worker's back last year. The worker

had since returned to employment there.

He said his company followed

Cambodian law and had been in touch with the Ministry of Social Action to see

what working conditions it should offer.

Hout Chanthy, head of the

ministry's Department of Labor Inspection, did not know of the Mieng Ly Heng

sawmill but said action could be taken against any employer who abused their

staff.

He said that, under the law, employers had to pay compensation for

workers who died or were disabled in workplace accidents.

Of some 294

companies his ministry had been in contact with, only about half of them were

fully obeying the law's provisions, he said.

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