To generate more jobs, garment factories have urged unions and the government to allow the creation of a separate night shift with wages lower than current overtime pay, garment officials said Wednesday.
Currently, overtime in the garment sector is lucrative for workers, who receive twice the wage they do during the daytime but in turn run higher risks of theft and health problems.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said that employers were seeking to cut costs and increase the number of available jobs by creating a separate night shift for which workers would be paid 30 percent more than a daytime wage.
“This policy [of double pay for overtime] is abnormal compared to other countries,” he said. “We want to be competitive when we join the WTO.”
A quota system that has fueled the country’s garment and textile industries is set to expire this month, and Cambodia, which became an official member of the World Trade Organization in October, has been taking measures to ensure it can compete with other nations on a more level playing field.
In recent months, Cambodia has used the garment sector’s record of good labor practices as a draw for potential buyers.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said that considering the global standard, the request for reduced wages was reasonable. He added, however, that factories must also be willing to make some concessions.
“For example, If we agree to 150 percent for the night shift, the employers should exchange other benefits for us,” like transportation for workers traveling after dark, Chea Mony said.
Night shift employees are entitled to extra compensation because, through sleep deprivation, they are subject to greater health risks, said Chhorn Sokha, deputy president of the Cambodia Apparel Democratic Workers’ Union.
Sar Mora, an employee at Sam Han Garment Factory, said he found it very difficult to sleep during the day and that people working nights often complained of stomach problems, while others simply abandoned their jobs.
“I do not like to work at night,” he said. “Sometimes I work only because the factory forces us.”
Minister of Labor Nhep Bunchin said Wednesday that he would have to study the proposal further before any decision is made. “The government does everything for the sake of the workers,” he said. “But we also want to have the same standards as other countries in the region.”