H&M factory workers fall illMonday, 29 August 2011
Deputy provincial police chief Ly Virak blamed the mass faintings on the "weak" health of workers and said the factory suspended operations until next week to allow its 4,000 workers to rest.
H&M said it was investigating the faintings and said the government, local authorities and the U.N.'s International Labour Organization had "not found any plausible causes so far."
In July, H&M said that it was consulting state agencies, workers and independent factory inspectors to find out what happened at a different factory in Phnom Penh after about 300 workers fell sick.
Some big Western brands have launched investigations into what non-governmental organizations say are more than 1,000 faintings this year by garment workers toiling for long hours on meager salaries to help feed hundreds of thousands of poor rural families.
Among the big Western firms with clothing or other goods produced in Cambodia are Marks and Spencer Group Plc, Tesco Plc, Next Plc and Inditex, the world's biggest clothing retailer and owner of Zara.
A report in April by Reuters about a spate of illnesses at a factory producing footwear exclusively for Puma prompted the German sports brand to commission an independent inquiry by the Washington-based Fair Labor Association.
It concluded there was a "strong possibility" that an estimated 104 faintings over a two-day period were caused by exposure to chemicals, poor ventilation and exhaustion from excessive hours.
The garment sector, Cambodia's-largest currency earner followed by agriculture and tourism, has been plagued by strikes and protests over working conditions and pay, several spiraling into clashes between the mostly female employees and riot police armed with guns and electric stun batons.
Image: H&M Fall 2011
Source: Reuters ©