Fainted workers from Shen Zhou factory stayed at Independent Clinic. 3rd April 2014
This week hundreds of Cambodian garment workers have fallen
unconscious in mass fainting incidents throughout the city.
On Wednesday around 60 workers fainted at Shen Zhou
(Cambodia) Co., Ltd. Workers estimate that yesterday a further 200 lost
consciousness at the same factory as well as Daqian Textile (Cambodia) Co.,
Ltd. The affected workers who produce for Adidas, Puma and Nike suspect that it
was unsanitary water and food and strong fabric odors that caused them to lose
consciousness en masse.
Earlier in the week other mass incidents involving almost
100 workers occurred at a New Wide (Cambodia) Garment Co., Ltd, whose parent
company also claims business relationships with the international sporting
Yesterday's fainting took place just meters from the scene
of January's violent crackdown in which at least four workers were shot dead
during protests calling for an increase in the minimum wage. One of those
killed was Yean Rithy, a worker at Shen Zhou (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. He left
behind his wife who also works at the factory but was absent during the
fainting to grieve her husband's death.
Reports commissioned by the International Labor Organization
(ILO) as far back as 2011 confirm the link between wages, malnutrition and
fainting - as well as countless other since. Yesterday's incident shows again
the inadequacy of the government's response. Instead of addressing the issue,
the government has responded to calls for increased wage that satisfies basic
needs with violent and lethal repression. Despite the legal obligation that
minimum wage must ensure every worker of a decent standard of living compatible
with human dignity, the recent decision of the Labor Advisory Council flies in
the face of the government's own studies conducted in 2013 which show that such
a standard of living requires a wage of somewhere between US$157 and US$177 per
month. And as such mass fainting continues.
The government claims that increased wages will stifle the
competitiveness of the industry. But the main obstacle is widespread
corruption. The ILO estimated last month that 10 per cent of Cambodia's GDP is
lost annually to corruption, which in the garment industry equates to US$550
million per year. This should not be surprising given Cambodia's ranking on
Transparency International's most recent Corruption Perception Index of 160 out
of 177 countries surveyed - worse than Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Nigeria. If that
money was divided amongst Cambodia's 600,000 garment workers, the new minimum
wage could be increased tomorrow - to approximately $176 per month.
International brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike are
complicit in this. Whilst their various codes and standards state that wages
are essential for meeting the basic needs of employees and reasonable savings
and expenditure, their supply-chain workers are not seeing any tangible
The Clean Clothes Campaign's recent report, Tailored Wages
shows that despite Adidas' CSR initiatives "the significant change needed for
workers will never happen”; that despite Puma's sustainability measures their
strategy for delivering living wage "won't cut it"; and for Nike "little is as
yet being done to increase wages above the minimum level."
We call on the government to return to wage negotiations
immediately and end the endemic corruption that businesses now associate with
And we call on international brands such as Adidas, Puma and
Nike to take concrete measures to address wages that currently do not satisfy
basic needs nor provide for a life with human dignity.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Joel Preston, Consultant, Community Legal Education
Center (CLEC), +855 66 777 037