Cambodia Feels Slighted Over Labor Bonus

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said Thursday that Cam­bodia is not completely satisfied with the 9 percent “labor bonus” increase in garment exports granted by the US government.

“Because of the recession in the US, we understand the problem,” he said, referring to sluggish sales in US markets, especially in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks.

“But we maintain that this [agreement] is not very fair to Cam­bodia. We are not completely satisfied. We were calling for more.” He said Cambodia had hoped for an 18 percent bonus increase in the amount of clothing Cambodia can export to the US.

The US this week an­noun­ced a second three-year textile deal between the two countries. The deal, which runs through 2004, includes the annual 6 percent increase permitted in all clo­thing categories, plus a 9 percent “labor bonus” increase for 2002.

The labor bonus is determined annually, based on Cambodia’s efforts to improve working conditions in factories.

Under the old contract, the US could have granted a bonus as high as 14 percent. Instead, it granted Cambodia 9 percent, saying the country had not adequately enforced the labor law or protected union rights.

The new agreement retains the automatic annual 6 percent in­crease, and increases the potential yearly labor bonus that can be awarded to 18 percent.

Cham Prasidh said he believes that Cambodia has work­ed ex­tremely hard to improve working conditions and that the US does not hold any other country to such stringent conditions.

“The workers, unions and manufacturers are more educated now,” he said. “We feel we have lived up to our promises, and now the US should live up to its promises, too. They have talked about 14 percent, but we have only received a partial reward of 9 percent.”

Cham Prasidh said he hopes this year’s bonus figure will be increased at the next labor consultations, likely to be held in May.


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