Target Australia and Kmart Australia Must Immediately Intervene to Ensure Safe Working Conditions for Workers at Juhui Footwear Co., Ltd.

On 18 September 2018, 27 workers fainted at Juhui Footwear Co., Ltd. in Kampong Cham Province. This is the third instance of mass fainting at Juhui Footwear Co., Ltd. this year. On 26 January, more than 60 workers fainted at the factory due to a lack of proper ventilation. On 12 July, 50 workers were hospitalised after fainting due to a lack of ventilation in the factory. Target Australia and Kmart Australia, to whom Juhui is a listed supplier, must immediately intervene to ensure that workers in their supply chain have safe working conditions.

Juhui Footwear Co., Ltd. is a Taiwanese-owned company registered to Mu Hsin-Yuan. The factory is listed as a supplier to both Target and Kmart in Australia. CENTRAL notes that Kmart and Target’s shared Ethical Sourcing Code requires employers to comply with all legal requirements and limitations on overtime and that conditions in supplier factories must be “safe, clean and consistent with all applicable laws and regulations”.

CENTRAL met with workers from Juhui Footwear following the mass fainting incident on 12 July. In addition to the lack of proper ventilation cited by the Provincial Director of the Department of Labour as the reason for the fainting, workers cited hot working temperatures in the factory, coupled with excessive and illegal amounts of overtime. Workers reported often working up to five hours of overtime per day, resulting in their not finishing work until 9 pm in the evening. Such excessive and regular amounts of overtime is illegal under Cambodian law. For some workers who CENTRAL spoke with, this meant not arriving at home until 10:30 PM at night, allowing them often less than six hours of sleep before having to wake up again to return to work.

Attempts at communication with Target Australia and Kmart Australia following the 12 July mass fainting incident were met by an initial denial that the incident had even occurred. This was despite the incident being covered extensively in both local Khmer and English language press. Target Australia and Kmart Australia’s representative assured CENTRAL that the factory had proper ventilation systems.

Incidents of mass fainting are extremely prevalent in Cambodian factories, fueled by high working temperatures, poor ventilation and malnutrition stemming from low wages. The National Social Security Fund reported that 1,603 people fainted at work in 2017. Workers that spoke to CENTRAL reported that working temperatures within the factory are extremely hot. Article 229 of the Labour Law states that all establishments and work places must be set up in a manner which protects the health of workers. Read together, Prakas 125/01 and 147/02 require employers to ensure that working temperatures within all workplaces are reasonable for workers and that workplaces are properly ventilated to protect workers from unclean air. A violation of Article 229 or any of these Prakas is punishable under Articles 375 and 376 of the Labour Law.

Kmart Australia and Target Australia must both stand by their public statements on ethical sourcing and immediately intervene to ensure that workers in their supply chain have safe working conditions.

For further inquiries, please contact either Khun Tharo at [email protected] or Patrick Lee at [email protected].

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