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Garment Workers Want Safer Commutes

Ou Mom and Nov Sivutha / Khmer Times Share:
Garment workers travel to work by remork moto at Chak Angre Krom. KT Photo: Jonathan Ponnetier

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Factory workers increasingly object to the dangerous transport they have to use in their daily commutes to garment factories. 

Their concern is underlined by figures from the National Social Security Fund: 73 fatalities and more than 4,700 injures in 2014. And countless more injuries are believed to go unreported. 

Contrary to public perception that garment workers often live near their factories, Ath Thun, head of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, says 60 percent of all garment workers have a long way to travel from home to factory. 

“It is not safe for garment workers when the companies build in the city,” he said. “The roads are bad.  Traffic laws are not enforced. The drivers have no code of conduct and no driving licenses.”

To reduce accidents, Ath Thun calls for traffic law enforcement and the use of trucks driven by licensed drivers.

About 50 percent of truck drivers who ferry workers to and from work do not have licenses, according to Labor Ministry’s statistics for last year.

Preap Chanvibol, of the Transport Ministry, says the government plans this year to teach drivers about traffic laws so that they can take driving tests and get licenses.

Another major issue is the physical condition of the trucks. 

A recent truck crash in Svay Rieng left almost 50 workers injured because the vehicle was old. The truck, like so many that ferry workers, was carrying about 50 workers when the driver lost control and skidded wildly off the road. Many trucks have weak brakes, worn tires, or unreliable steering.

“The factories should be built far from the city, and the workers’ residences should be close to the factory,” said Mr. Thun, the unionist. “The vehicles and roads should be above minimal standards, and drivers should conduct themselves properly in traffic.  

Pov Ranut, 25, a worker at the Hoyear factory in Chbar Ampov, lives in Ta Khmao district, Kandal province.

“I have to ride on a remork moto or a truck to get to work every day, she said, referring the kind of “stretch tuk tuk” picture here. “One of my relatives just had an accident, so it’s terrifying for me to have to take a motor taxi or truck to work each day.”

Vann Socheata, another Hoyear worker, said many workers from nearby provinces such as Kandal and Takeo used to travel long distances in unsafe conditions to work in Phnom Penh.

“Now many workers from Takeo province have jobs in their own province, because a new factory was built there,” she said, approvingly. “So they don’t have to worry about having a traffic accident.”

With the Cambodian garment worker vote up for grabs in the 2018 parliamentary elections, the government seems increasingly interested in making their commute a safer one.

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