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Workers’ journey still perilous

Garment workers fill the back of a truck in Kampong Speu’s  Samrong Tong district last year
Garment workers fill the back of a truck in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district last year. Vireak Mai

Workers’ journey still perilous

Sixty-seven garment and footwear workers were killed in traffic accidents during commutes to factories in 2013, up from 49 in 2012, a report from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) said yesterday.

The increase came despite the efforts of a government working group to educate truck drivers not to cram scores of workers in their trays.

“When we have educated them, some drivers who transport 50 workers now take only 20 or 30, because we told them to install seats,” said Preap Chan Vibol, from the Ministry of Public Works.

But the spike in deaths, as well as 729 serious injuries, has prompted the Ministry of Labour to call for factories to sign contracts with drivers, believing more formal relationships with them will lead to better safety.

“Mostly the drivers are the main cause of these traffic accidents, because they are not skilled and they are immature,” Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng said in the NSSF’s report summary. “Some do not have driver’s licences and carry 60 to 70 people.”

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said that simply trying to restrict the number of passengers in a truck may not be the best solution.

“[Fewer customers] would put pressure on the driver . . . who would increase the fees. Then it would come back on the workers, who would have to put in more overtime,” he said.

Better solutions, he added, would be brands paying for either employee buses or housing closer to factories.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary general Ken Loo said he had been speaking to the government about whether regulations could limit passengers.

But Loo added he was doubtful brands would agree to fund buses or provide housing.

“We tried to moot the idea of brands paying for lunch – and that fell flat. I’m not at all hopeful . . . Brands are not going to pay unless they are forced,” he said.

More than 80 garment workers were injured earlier this month when a truck crashed in Svay Rieng.

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