Last week, hundreds of Cambodian garment workers began to faint and were hospitalized. They make products for major sportswear companies like Puma and Adidas. The garment industry is critical to Cambodia’s challenging economy right now. A combination of tainted food, poor working conditions and insecticides are all suspected causes.
There are roughly 650,000 workers in Cambodia’s garment industry, which yields more than five billion a year in revenue.
Shocking thing is, mass fainting episodes are common in Cambodia, this isn’t the first instance. The garment workers also make clothing for high street fashion brands like Gap, Nike, H&M and Marks & Spencer. Workers have often complained of poor ventilation, strong chemicals and the use of potent glue for footwear.
Over 1,000 reports of fainting in 2011 were made for factories owned by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Koreans. Factory workers typically earn less than $100 per month.
In addition to faintings, there are long-running disputes over pay and anti-government protests have been violently suppressed by security forces.
Close to 20 unions plan to hold a week-long strike on April 17 to demand a minimum wage rise to $160 monthly, up from $100. In the previous strike in January, live ammunition was used to disperse crowds, killing five workers.