Just weeks after a deadly building collapse in Bangadesh, the concrete ceiling of a factory in the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia collapsed, killing two and wounding seven others. The collapse happened just after the start of the morning shift, caving in on around 50 workers. The factory was contracted by the Japanese shoe company Asics to manufacture its sneakers. A spokesperson for the company said, “We understand that some people have died, so first we offer our condolences.”
“It’s a calamity,” said David Walsh, Cambodia director of the Solidarity Center, which works as an affiliate to the AFL-CIO union. “Where the garment industry goes, so do workers’ rights abuses.”
“This shows that the problem is not only isolated to Bangladesh, and that companies (elsewhere) are trying to drive prices down by taking shortcuts on workers’ safety,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. Workers rights groups are paying close attention to how the Cambodian government handles the tragedy; Cambodia is quickly becoming a go-to nation for garment production. And while workers there suffer the same low wages and poor conditions as their Bangladeshi counterparts, there are several labor groups lobbying on behalf of workers’ rights.
With so much attention on the working conditions within garment factories, it would be wise for the Cambodian government to work hand in hand with manufactures there, to ensure safety standards. Especially because Cambodia’s garment industry is its top export earner. Last year, it shipped more than $5 billion in products to the U.S. and Europe — though little of that money sees its way back to the factory workers. Employees at the Asics factory, for example, make less in a month than an average pair of the brand’s sneakers sells for.