Fri, May 17, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Cambodian factory collapse kills 3

FRAUGHT RELATIONS:A worker said there had been two strikes over poor working conditions and low wages in the past year at the Taiwanese-owned factory


Three people were killed when the ceiling of a warehouse fell in at a shoe factory in Cambodia, a government minister said yesterday, adding to concern about safety standards at Asian factories producing clothes cheaply for Western consumers.

Earlier, a trade union member at the factory had said six people had died in the collapse, which happened at about 7am.

The shoe factory, owned by Wing Star Shoes Co, a Taiwanese company, employed about 7,000 people, but only about 100 worked in the single-story warehouse, according to staff.

Work at the plant stopped after the accident.

Cambodia has seen a rush of investment in recent years, especially into the shoe and garment sector, with Western and Asian firms attracted by its low-cost labor. The IMF says that garments account for about 80 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s exports.

Cambodian Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng said another six people had been injured in the incident at the plant in the Kong Pisei district of Kampong Speu Province, 50km west of the capital, Phnom Penh.

“We will investigate the case and we will take measures against those involved,” he said, meaning anyone who might be held responsible for poor safety standards.

He said no one remained trapped inside the building.

A reporter saw footwear bearing the name Asics scattered around the damaged warehouse, where a bulldozer was clearing away rubble.

A spokeswoman for Japanese sportswear maker Asics Corp said the factory made running shoes for it.

“Our prayers go out to the families of those who have died,” she said.

Asics relies on sports shoes for about two-thirds of its sales, which amounted to ¥57.33 billion (US$560 million) in the year to March 31.

A series of deadly incidents at factories in Bangladesh, the world’s biggest exporter of clothing after China, has focused global attention on safety standards in the booming garment industry in that country.

An eight-story complex of factories housing garment manufacturers collapsed in Bangladesh on April 24, killing more than 1,100 people.

That has sparked campaigns in Western nations to improve safety conditions at plants in the country supplying Western brand names.

Strikes over pay and poor working conditions are common in the sector in Cambodia, also home to numerous factories producing clothing cheaply for Western retailers.

Ngeth Phat, 29, who was among those rescued yesterday, said the Wing Star factory had been open for little more than a year, but there had already been two strikes by workers over poor working conditions and low wages she put at US$80 a month.

“After I got into work, bits of brick dropped on me and about 10 minutes later the whole ceiling collapsed. It was completely dark and I was under other people,” she said from a hospital bed in Phnom Penh.

Kampong Speu Governor Ou Sam Oun said the factory would provide compensation of US$5,000 to the families of the deceased and US$1,000 each to of the workers who were injured.

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