May 16, 2013
KAMPONG SPEU: A ceiling has collapsed at a shoe factory in Cambodia, killing at least two workers, police said, stoking concerns about industrial safety after last month’s disaster in Bangladesh.
“Two workers – a man and a woman – were killed and six others were injured,” Khem Pannara, district police chief for the area in the southern province of Kampong Speu said. The area under the collapsed ceiling was a walkway.
“We have almost removed all the debris and I think there are probably no more people under the rubble,” he said.
He said the concrete ceiling, which appeared to be of “poor construction”, had been used to store equipment and materials and could not hold the weight.
Last month a nine-storey factory complex outside Dhaka collapsed, killing 1127 people in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters and prompting pressure on Western retailers that rely on cheap labour in the region, where safety standards are often substandard.
One worker at the Cambodian factory said police and some staff worked together to clear the debris.
“Every day more than 100 people work under that area, but I don’t know how many were working this morning,” said Sokny, 29.
“I was so shocked. I am crying. I saw blood in the debris,” she said.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said the incident would further stoke fears among the country’s workers about industrial safety.
“Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international safety standard because the quality of the buildings are not ensured and people have been working with a high risk of danger,” he said.
“We are calling for the government and authorities to re-examine the quality of the factory buildings in order to avoid this kind of incident in the future. It happened in Bangladesh recently and now it has happened in Cambodia. We are very worried about the safety of the workers.”
Cambodia earned $4.67 billion from its garment exports last year but a series of strikes has pointed to festering discontent over low wages and tough conditions.
Protests by workers have also turned ugly. Three women, employees of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports, were wounded when a gunman opened fire on protesters demanding better working conditions at factories in February last year.
The shooting prompted Puma, Gap and H&M to express their “deep concern” and urge a thorough investigation.
But discontent lingers on the factory floor where 400,000 people of the 650,000 people employed in the industry work for foreign firms.
The monthly minimum wage for the hundreds of thousands of workers who make clothes for firms such as Levi Strauss of the United States and Sweden’s H&M this month rose from $61 to $75, plus $5 for healthcare, after months of protest.
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