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Calls for More Regulation, as Hundreds More Workers Faint on Job

Cambodian garment workers buy some cheap food for their lunch in front of the factory in downtown of Phnom Penh, file photo.

Labor leaders are calling on the Cambodian government to do more to inspect factory conditions, with at least 300 workers fainting inside factories in the last four days.

A lack of wages leading to poor health, combined with stifling conditions inside factories, was likely to blame for the mass faintings, Ath Thun, head of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, told VOA Khmer.

Such faintings are preventable, he said. “First, the minimum wage must be increased for workers to have a decent living. Work hours must be reduced…. this will improve the health of workers. Second, companies must comply with standards for proper work times and environment.”

That means a work environment with safe levels of chemicals and proper ventilation, he said. “If any company violates the rules, it should be closed down. Once one or two companies are closed down, the rest will be afraid,” he said.

Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union, said the main issue remains the weak health of workers, who eat poorly and work too many hours. They can only afford street food, like cooked snails, pickled mango and dried fish, he said.

The International Labor Organization and international buyers all want better conditions, but many factories ignore these demands, due in part to corruption within state institutions, which “don’t enforce the law,” he said.

Heng Suor, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, unions continue to call for a raise in the minimum wage, up to $177 per month, which they say is needed for workers to keep up with the rising cost of living in the country.