Adonis Diaries

Fashion industry, Garment industry: Eye-witness accounts of mass fainting…Part 2

Posted on: April 18, 2012

Part 2. Fashion industry, Garment industry: Who is being sacrificed? Eye-witness accounts of mass fainting

If you care to read part 1 first

China was the main producer of cloth in the last two decades. China garment manufacturing  is being displaced gradually by Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and India where labor is becoming far cheaper, of about a single dollar per hour.

Anne Elizabeth Moore published an extensive report in Truthout on April 4 “The Fashion Industry’s Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers”. This is the second of four parts.

The Domino Effect

A few months after these mass, failed protests, huge numbers of workers started falling to the ground. Coverage of mass faintings in the press began with an incident on April 9 and 10, 2011, as 300 employees of the Huey Chuen garment factory and, next door, 500 employees of Universal Apparel Co. Ltd., fainted, according to both Reuters and The Guardian UK.

Deutsche-Press Agentur originally claimed 200 workers fell that day; Agence France-Presse listed only 101. These discrepancies were later attributed to counts based on hospitalized, instead of injured, workers, at two distinct sites.

On June 15, The Guardian UK reported that 200 more employees experienced “a bad smell” before collapsing at King Fashion Garment, also in Phnom Penh.

The next day, according to the same paper, another 100 fell. On July 25, Fashion-industry news site notes that 49 more workers were hospitalized after another incident at Huey Chuen garment factory, a story confirmed by Deutsche-Press Agentur.

That same day, around 100 workers fainted at Hung Wah Textiles in the capital city, reported VOA Khmer. Reuters claims 300 workers fell in July, but does not provide a date, while other sources claim a mass fainting incident took place on July 21. Neither were confirmed by other sources.

On August 24, 85 more workers fainted after complaining of unusual odors at the M&V International Manufacturing, Ltd. plant in the central Kampong Chhnang province, according to The Associated Press, which reported nearly 200 more workers collapsing at the same factory the next day.

On August 26, Radio Free Asia (RFA) told of 20 workers losing consciousness at the Shingly Garment Factory in the capital. Four days later, the station reported, more than 100 workers had collapsed on the job at the Chime Ly Garment Factory in the Kandal province in southern Cambodia. More smells were reported there; this time, guards outside factory doors fainted, too.

On August 31, more than 50 workers fell at Heart Enterprise Garment Factory in southern Kandal province, according to RFA.

For a time, the faintings were eclipsed by the big-name brands rushing to look into them. Swedish clothing retailer H&M, which buys garments from the M&V and Hung Wah plants, investigated over the summer. In a July 22 email to Reuters, H&M company stated: “Worker’s health and safety in our supplier factories is of high priority to H&M. Accordingly, we have immediately started investigations …”

German sportswear company Puma, the sole purchaser of shoes made in the Huey Chuen factory, had the Fair Labor Association (FLA) draw up a report.

Findings were mixed: H&M, the world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer, concluded their investigation by the end of August. No “plausible causes” had been discovered for the faintings, reported.

The FLA, a non-profit organization funded by affiliate clothing, footwear and consumer goods companies, boasts a mission to promote adherence to national and international labor laws. Although the organization stands accused of deep conflicts of interest that cast shadows over all findings – releasing glowing reports of Foxconn factories in China paid for by Apple, for example – even it noted clear violations of domestic labor law and Puma’s contractor code of conduct, as well as worker malnutrition at the Huey Chuen plant. On July 26, reported only that hypoglycemia had been diagnosed.

The Cambodian government got into the act, too. Following the Heart Enterprise incident, the ministers of industry, labor, social affairs and health portfolios inspected the factory and condemned it for unhygienic conditions and overcrowded workspaces.

Factory management, however, wrote the incident off as having been caused by “spiritual possession,” RFA reported on August 31. Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturing Association of Cambodia, or GMAC, theorized that:  “since many incidents of mass fainting in Cambodian factories have occurred on a Monday … workers may have become over-involved with social activities on the weekend before returning to work…”

A brief pause, then more mass faintings.

On October 24, RFA listed a remarkable 1,000 workers fainting and the Australian Broadcasting Company, or ABC, reported 136 workers fell ill at the Anful Garment Factory – another producer for H&M – in southern Kampong Speu Province, according to Reuters. The factory closed for two days – claiming to give workers time to rest, although foul smells from an insecticide sprayed on shirts on Sunday had been reported – and when the factory opened again on October 27, over 200 more workers fainted. (ABC listed 100.)

Toward the end of 2011, reports of mass faintings become more sporadic and fewer are confirmed by multiple sources. On December 8, China Daily reported 59 workers collapsed at the Sportex Industry factory in Phnom Penh.

On January 24, 2012, the Cambodia Daily reported 60 workers fell at the Taiwanese-owned King First Industrial Co Ltd. in the capital. RFA reported 300 workers fainted at Nanguo Garment Co. Ltd. in Sihanoukville, southwest of the capital, on February 14. The Phnom Pehn Post confirms only 200 faintings that day. On March 6, the Post reported 46 more workers fell at the same factory.

The stories conflict and at times contradict. While exact numbers of fainted – as opposed to ill, hospitalized or fallen – workers are disputed, that a record numbers of faintings took place was never questioned.

Causes were offered. Plausible, comprehensive explanations were not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




April 2012

Blog Stats

  • 1,521,983 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: