Deadline for Wage Negotiations Missed

The tripartite Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) on Monday missed its provisional deadline to decide on a new minimum wage for the garment sector, with employers and trade unions making little progress in coming to an agreement.

Last month, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said he hoped the LAC would agree on a proposal for the garment sector’s new monthly minimum wage—currently set at $128 —by October 5. The Labor Ministry will make a final decision on the matter.

On Monday, however, the LAC’s working group—a more inclusive body of government, factory and union representatives charged with proposing a new wage to the committee—was still negotiating, and seemingly far from consensus.

Most of the unions stuck to the $163 figure they proposed on Friday, after having come down over the past few weeks from $207. The employers increased their proposal slightly, offering a 3.75-percent raise instead of a 3.5-percent raise.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the extra 0.25 percent was related to the National Social Security Fund’s increasing costs.

The Labor Ministry is suggesting any raise also account for a roughly 1 percent increase in garment workers’ productivity. But Mr. Loo said the ministry came up with the figure by taking the average of productivity increases over the past few years.

“And we don’t agree that it should be a multiyear average,” he said. “We think it should be the previous year, and if you look at the previous year, productivity actually fell.”

Pav Sina, one of the union leaders in the working group, said the unions were unimpressed by the employers’ new offer.

“The employers said it was an encouragement and a concession” to the unions, he said. “But we did not agree because the employers only went up a little bit.”

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the government did not insist on a decision from the working group Monday in the hope that the employers and unions might still come closer together.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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