A collapsed garment worker recovers in a clinic outside Phnom Penh. ©IndustriALL Global Union/Luc Forsyth

Cambodian garment workers toiling to death


A combination of overwork, poor working conditions and poverty wages has seen another spike of Cambodian garment workers collapsing at work, but now workers are even dying on the job.

In a single week in July, over two hundred workers were admitted to the Prek Anhchanh Health Centre clinic on the outskirts of Phnom Penh after passing out at work in garment factories.  

However, more alarmingly, garment workers are actually dying at work.

Sokny Say from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) said:

"2014 is remarkable because while we have had many cases of mass faintings in the past, this is the first year that people have died. We must not become immune to the fact that so many garment workers are collapsing in the factories. It can be a precursor to death."

Two workers employed at factories located outside Phnom Penh died at the end of July.

Thirty-five-year-old seamstress Nov Pas, who spent nearly four years making clothes for brands like Gap and Old Navy, passed out at her post in the Sangwoo factory at 8a.m on July 24th, 2014. By 9am she had been admitted to the nearest provincial hospital, and around 6pm she was pronounced dead. 

When contacted for comment, Chea Sok Thong of the Korean-owned Sangwoo factory denied corporate responsibility for Ms. Nov’s death, claiming medical carelessness from the hospital where she was receiving treatment.

Garment worker, Vorn Tha, 44, collapsed and died at the New Archid factory, which makes clothes for H&M, after he had worked many long days from 7am to 10pm.

A third garment worker, employed at the Cambo Kotop Ltd factory in Phnom Penh, died in March.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, stated:

“This sinister development of workers collapsing at work and then dying cannot go unchallenged. Poverty wages mean that garment workers cannot afford to eat properly and a lack of food, long hours and intolerable factory conditions are proving a lethal combination.

We continue to back Cambodian unions’ demands for a raise in the minimum wage so garment workers can afford enough food to live on and no longer have to work such punishing overtime hours to survive.”