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Friday, August 26, 2011

CAMBODIA: H&M investigates mass faintings at factory

H&M has said that it has not found any plausible causes for a series of mass faintings that have taken place in a Cambodian factory making its clothes.

The statements follow local press reports that a total 284 workers at an M&V International Manufacturing site fainted on Tuesday and Thursday. According to the reports, workers smelled something bad coming from the shirts.

A spokesperson for the retailer told just-style today (26 August) that it was aware of the incident and that the "government, local authorities and International Labour Organisation have done investigations and have not found any plausible causes so far".

The spokesperson said H&M has also carried out an initial probe, with local staff immediately visiting the affected factories for an inspection and interviews with workers, but said the cause is "difficult to establish".

It said it has partnered with external experts and is in "close contact with the Better Factories Cambodia and the Employer Association GMAC" to figure out the root causes and solutions to these "discomforting incidents".

Inneke Zelderust, co-ordinator of the Clean Clothes campaign, said this is not the first time that there have been mass faintings in a Cambodian garment factory, citing a similar situation at a Puma factory in April.

An investigation following that incident found that overtime, poor chemical storage and heat were the causes for the faintings.

Zelderust described as "nonsense" M&V's excuse in the local press that the faintings were a "psychological phenomenon."

She suggested that high inflation levels are eroding salaries so that workers are not earning a living wage. "Workers are foregoing meals and doing lots of overtime which is leading to low nutrition levels," said Zelderust.

Zelderust called for other brands to be "proactive" in investigating worker health and occupational health and safety in their factories following the incidents, suggesting that it might be difficult to "pinpoint one cause" driving these mass faintings. "Take these as indicators of a broader problem," she emphasised.

According to a report released last week by the ILO's Better Factories Cambodia initiative, while working conditions in Cambodian garment factories are continuing to improve, there are still persisting worries over discrimination, overtime and occupational health, and safety.

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