In June, workers at an Armani supplier factory in Phnom Penh long plagued by poor conditions erupted in cheers when they were promised reforms that included finally addressing the facility’s sweltering temperatures, seniority bonuses and long-term contracts for employees with extended tenure.
But a month later, little has changed, with reforms either half-heartedly implemented or nowhere in sight, workers said yesterday.
In a rare visit granted to the Kin Tai Garment factory in May, Post reporters witnessed workers toiling under extreme heat to produce clothes for the designer label Armani Jeans.
In a bid to keep from fainting, they had resorted to performing a traditional healing practice known as coining on one another, which involved scraping at their skin with a metal object until it was raw.
Reforms pledged weeks later included the installation of a cooling system, which uses water running down the walls of the facility to ease temperatures.
But while the system has been fully installed, workers say factory managers are only switching it on for half of the day.
In the morning, “the temperatures inside the factory are the same as before . . . The factory turns the water sprinklers on only from 12pm to 4pm,” said Chheang Thida, leader of the in-factory union.
According to Thida, a pregnant woman collapsed at the factory just last week and has yet to return to work.
One seamstress, 28-year-old Long Na Ty, said she still regularly needs to be coined.
“Although the morning is not as hot as the afternoon, it is still too hot for us to bear,” she explained.
“We all want to talk to the factory about this, but they don’t listen to us.”
Promises of contracts and bonuses also have yet to be realised, according to workers.
Poev Soeun, Kin Tai’s administration manager, said the cooling system is generally turned on at 11am and stays on until the end of the working day.
He claimed that it is also switched on if the temperature is high in the morning.
“We are very concerned about the workers’ health.
It’s not that we don’t want to turn it on all the time, but we think it’s useless to turn on when it’s not hot,” he said.
He added that any faintings since the system was introduced are not connected to the heat.
“Regarding the seniority bonuses and providing long-term contracts, the company is considering this and will discuss it with the workers’ representatives soon,” he added.
Armani did not respond to a request for comment.
Joel Preston, a consultant at the Community Legal Education Centre, said Armani needed to push for real reform.
“They [Kin Tai] have promised the world to the workers on quite a few occasions, but never followed through. This is absolutely another example of that. There needs to be pressure from Armani”.
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