A coalition of garment factory owners offered to increase the minimum wage for garment workers by $11 per month, from $61 to $72, during pay negotiations on Tuesday with unions that are set to continue today at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Phnom Penh.
Last week, garment worker unions agreed on a joint demand that the monthly factory wage be increased to $120 per month, citing ever-higher living costs in Cambodia, and the ability of factories and international clothing corporations to meet the wage demand.
Unions at the meeting on Tuesday quickly rejected the $11 increase.
“It is not fair, which is why we did not agree,” said Som Aun, president of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia.
“In the union discussions, we might agree on a certain decrease [from the $120 demand],” Mr. Aun said, adding that he could not say what the unions’ new goal would be, since the negotiations will continue until an agreement is reached.
“The meeting has been a positive move because the offer increased to $72,” he said, “but in general, we don’t agree on $72.”
Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said a working group would be set up on the back of the meeting and that discussions would continue.
“The $72 offer is just temporary,” he said. “We will still have further discussions, and we’ll see—this is just the primary offer—it won’t go down, but up.”
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers
Association in Cambodia, said the $11 increase offer would stand where it is for the time being.
“That’s the offer at this moment, and that’s where we stand,” he said. “In any negotiation, there will always be a possibility of the unions coming down and us up, but that’s not to say there is room.”
“In theory, the review of the minimum wage at this juncture was a sign of good faith on the part of GMAC, because the review of the minimum wage should only take place in 2014 as per the announcement of the Labor Advisory Committee.”
Mr. Loo said the meeting was adjourned “to give both sides a chance to reflect and continue tomorrow.”
As for how long the talks could go on for, he said: “It will go on as long as necessary. You cannot set a limit to negotiations.”
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)