A series of mass faintings have occurred at factories in Cambodia, attracting criticism toward sportswear companies Adidas and Puma and the conditions the keep for workers.
A number of garment workers fell ill this week at factories across the southeast Asian country, with hot weather and poor conditions resulting in mass faintings. On Thursday a total of 118 workers passed out at the Shen Zhou and Daqian Textile factories in Phnom Penh.
Officials believe food poisoning may have been a contributing factor, and many of the workers reported serious symptoms.
“It was hot and I began to vomit, I had diarrhea and others had the same problems,” said Nguon Sarith, a worker who was hooked up to an intravenous drip at a hospital after fainting.
The mass faintings have attracted the attention of workers rights groups. Workers have begun to organize demanding safer conditions and higher pay. Some groups are planning a week-long strike on April 17 to demand a wage increase to $160 per month from $100.
“The health of Cambodian workers is generally poor because with the current wages they cannot make a good living,” said Seang Sambath, head of the Worker Friendship Union Federation.
Both Puma and Adidas said they were closely monitoring the factories and were meeting with police investigating the incident. The companies have also given samples of food from the factories’ cafeterias to determine if food poisoning was the cause.
Cambodia relies heavily on the garment industry, which generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue and employs 600,000 people. But the industry has also been plagued by poor conditions, with factories that often have poor ventilation and strong chemicals to create shoes. More than 1,000 faintings were reported in 2011.
Many see the mass faintings in Cambodia as a sign of a larger problem across the region. In Bangladesh, the collapse of a factory in 2013 killed more than 1,100 people.