The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has introduced guidelines for factories and enterprises to follow after determining that the transmission of Covid-19 there is largely caused by five main factors.
In a six-page document titled “Planned Measures to Contain the Spread of Covid-19 at Factories and Enterprises in Phnom Penh” and signed by governor Khuong Sreng on June 15, it said one of the primary factors was that many workers employed by different factories are sharing their living spaces and transportation.
Other factors include workers buying food from disorderly or unhygienic places and flouting health measures.
Despite the ongoing community outbreak, Sreng said only a small number of factories and enterprises had suspended their operations, while many others have been up and running as usual.
As of the first half of this year, there are 746 factories and 4,985 small-scale enterprises in Phnom Penh, providing 476,359 jobs and indirectly benefiting hundreds of thousands of other people. The municipal investment commission has officially registered 34 new factories this year.
To contain the spread of the virus, he said the municipal hall has put into place many health, administrative and social protection measures as well as an accelerated vaccination campaign that utilised much of the government’s resources.
In the medium term – within the next year – the administration requires all factory owners to organise emergency exits at the factories, prepare information counters, and make available appropriate resting and dining areas. They must also carry out daily disinfections and have places for testing, quarantine and treatment.
The factories must all have rapid test kits, an updated information list for their workers and all new workers must undergo a rapid test.
“It is not permitted to sell food and drink and other materials in an untidy manner inside and around the factories, except for the food services that the factories have contracted to prepare daily meals for the workers,” said the document.
All areas of the factories must be set up to allow for 1.5m of social distancing and all gatherings of workers outside of working hours are forbidden.
Also for the medium term, workers have to rent accommodations close to their factories and must not share rooms with those from other factories.
The municipality urged workers to reduce travel and reliance on shared transportation. If this is not possible, they have to follow health preventive measures like wearing masks and sanitising their hands frequently. They must not eat while commuting on shared transport. Transportation providers should reduce the number of workers in their vehicles to half-capacity.
“Workers have to get [real] information to avoid falling for incitement and rumours spread by ill-intended groups who intend to cause social chaos and should instead trust the government, specialised ministries, institutions and local authorities,” it said.
In the long-term plan of between one and five years, Sreng said factories should follow standard operating procedures with each having its work buildings separated from each other; providing accommodations for staff and workers; offering daycare and medical services; and building dining facilities, food stalls, parking lots and a garden.
If factories cannot afford to meet the above-mentioned standards, they should sign contracts with landlords who can provide proper accommodations in the vicinity of the workers’ workplace. All factories should organise shared transportation for their workers with costs split between employees and employers.
All factories must work closely with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to update workers’ contact information through the One Standard Database and work with the local authorities to maintain order near their compounds.
“Factories and enterprises should relocate to the special economic zones if possible, because they are best equipped to provide services for general industry such as export processing, production, free trade centres, service centres, accommodations and tourist areas which ease the production process for workers and the management,” Sreng said.
He said the municipality will discuss the development of more special economic zones in Phnom Penh with the Council for the Development of Cambodia with the goal of concentrating all factories in one place, improving public order, reducing traffic congestion and accidents and improving health and environmental issues.
The governor said the best area for investing in factories and enterprises should now be northwest of Phnom Penh.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the municipal plan was good but hard to implement because it is not legally binding. He said the reduction in capacity on transportation by half will not work because it will require workers to pay more when they only get $7 for transportation from their employers each month.
“Factories already give workers $7 for travel and accommodation as stated in the existing law and the factories have no duties to grant more subsidies than this. I don’t think it will work,” he said.
“If we recommend that factories should do this and that, they will not do it. But if it is stated in the law, then they will,” he said.
Recommending workers stay close to their factories may not work because they are not living in a standard building constructed primarily for them; instead they stay in buildings with around 10 rental units in each. The workers can stay nearby their factories only if the owners prepare such accommodations for them, he said.
Sina saw benefits to placing factories in special economic zones where there are administrative services in the zone to meet all needs. But he said it may pose difficulties for workers and unions in the event of any disagreements.