The vice president of NIFTUC gave evidence to the tribunal. She said:
“Every month we have fainting cases. Sometimes it is new workers, sometimes same persons. But if the workers go to the hospital for two or three days, and the doctors say they have no problems, they are still weak. They have to stay at home, and then they loose the attendance bonus, and they don’t get paid for work. Workers face fainting incident because they can not get enough wages, they can not buy enough food.”
“If you think about the family – they do not have the money to support their family, themselves. They are very worried. If they faint and come back into the workplace they can get blamed, they are worried. Anything that comes as a surprise, the workers can become unconscious very quickly.”
Three factories were profiled as evidence of the phenomenon of mass fainting.
1. Huey Chuen is a shoe factory and produces for the brand Puma. The factory is located in Sangkat Dangkor, Phnom Penh and employs around 3400 workers. On April 9, 2011 more than 100 workers fainted and were sent to the hospital. On April 10, 2011 , another 123 workers fainted. So far there are around 4-5 workers fainting every month and no one knows the reason for this.
Workers at this factory work for 12-14 hours a day, some using strong glues and chemicals, in hot and poorly ventilated environments. They also don’t eat nutritious food as they can’t afford it, and many have to travel for long journies on the back of trucks in order to get to and from work.
2. M&V International Manufacturing Ltd, is located 70km a way from Phnom Penh and employs 4652 worker. M&V International produces for the brand H&M. Between 21 August, and 22 September 2010 there were 453 separate incidents of fainting at the factory over 6 separate days.
There is no one identified cause of their faintings. As in Heuy Cheun, workers are working 12-14 hours a day, in hot and poorly ventilated areas, with strong fumes from ironing. Some working situations are reported as stressful, due to work place systems, and contract worries.
3. Sangwoo (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. employs workers around 4500 and is located in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia. The main buyer from Sangwoo is Gap. On October 20, 23 workers fainted and another 100 felt exhausted and were sent to the provincial hospital for treatment. The reason for the fainting was not officially identified. But the Kampong Spue hospital doctor said that it may be related to poor ventilation in the factory and the chemicals used to treat fabrics.
Workers further were working 10-12 hours a day, and many reported high transport costs of $10-16 per month, meaning they were not able to buy nutritious food. Most of the workers also travel long hours standing in overcrowded trucks that normally take around 1 hour or more every day per trip.