Washington - Union leaders say Cambodia’s factories nationwide should undergo inspections, following the deadly collapse of a shoe factory earlier this month.
Two workers died and dozens were injured when a mezzanine level at the Wing Star shoe factory in Kampong Speu province fell on workers below.
Union leaders say the collapse was an indicator of lax inspections and standards at factories throughout the country and could be harmful to the reputation of the garment sector, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, told “Hello VOA” Thursday that government inspectors must pay serious attention to factory construction and ensure they meet international standards.
“We wish to ask that all relevant agencies review all factory buildings all over the country to make sure the workers are safe,” he said. “And if any buildings are found to be unqualified, they should be destroyed and the owners seriously punished.”
The credibility of Cambodia’s garment industry is at stake, he said. Buyers and investors could shy away from an industry with shoddy buildings and potential accidents, he said.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Apparel Workers, said the collapse at the Taiwanese-operated Wing Star factory was not an isolated incident. Other accidents in the workplace happened consistently, he said.
Corruption during inspection remains a problem, both union leaders said. Inspectors are giving positive reports on factories in exchange for money, endangering workers.
“We as unionists and involved persons are demanding that employers take responsibility for these criminal acts,” Ath Thorn said. That includes proper compensation for injured workers and other measures, he said. “What we want is no danger to workers.”
Families of the workers injured and killed in the Wing Star collapse are now considering filing complaints with the court, he said.
Wing Star offered $6,500 to families of two dead workers, and $1,500 each to families of those who were injured.