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Cambodia's workers haggle for higher wages

Cambodia's garment unions finally agreed to demand a monthly industry minimum wage of $168 after weeks of haggling. However, they now find that employers are unwilling to consider a rise beyond the rate of inflation. Pro-government and independent unions debated between demanding $158 or $178 a month, wherein one league of independent unions even offered a target of $207 based on a survey of garment workers’ spending habits. This is in light of the ongoing tripartite minimum-wage talks, which are slated to culminate in October. However, recently, 14 unions settled on the $168 figure after more than an hour of internal discussion.

Employers, however, have not shown any sign of accepting these demands and so far have only agreed to increase salaries by the rate of inflation. This is based on a current rate of 3.5 per cent and the current minimum wage of $128, amounts to slightly less than $4.50 a month.Garment Manufacturers Association’s spokesperson in Cambodia, Ke Loo said that the union and government sides had so far, failed to prove to employers that there was a solid economic rationale for a rise in the minimum wage. He added that GMAC’s criteria, such as such as productivity, showed that the minimum wage should actually be decreased, and the unions’ $168 demand was ‘not workable’.

The $168 figure, though, according to Pav Sina, President of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), was based in part on external economic factors. He added that they were trying to considers issues of the economy, living standards, productivity, spending and also inflation to show them to the employers.