Free Trade Union Proposes $130 Garment Worker Minimum Wage

One of the country’s largest unions on Sunday came out in favor of a new minimum wage for garment workers far lower than what many of its counterparts have been agitating for over the past several months, bolstering prospects for a compromise with factories.

The Labor Ministry is mediating talks between the unions and garment factories with the hope of getting them to agree on a raise to the current monthly minimum wage of $100 before the increase takes effect in January.

But with the unions demanding a $77 raise and the factories insisting on no more than $10, there has been little progress.

On Sunday, however, Free Trade Union (FTU) president Chea Mony said his network of unions was ready to back a more modest raise of $30.

“We call on the government and employers to provide a $130 minimum wage because they can afford to provide this amount and the factories will not shut down,” he said by telephone after a biannual meeting with 77 of his officials Sunday morning.

“If we cannot get this wage, we will protest to demand it,” he said.

The FTU’s $130 is even lower than the $135 concession put forward last week by Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, one of the country’s most prominent nongovernment-aligned unions.

Unlike other supposedly independent unions, however, the FTU has not joined any of the recent protests to demand a major raise to the current minimum wage.

On Sunday, Mr. Mony said he had decided to shun the protests because the other unions were corrupt, charging workers for T-shirts they were handing out at the demonstrations even though they had been printed at the expense of international unions helping them.

“They are small unions and they do this for their own benefit, not for the workers,” he said, declining to name the unions he was accusing.

The Labor Ministry will today convene with representatives from the unions and factories for the first meeting of a new working group charged with coming up with a recommended raise for the Labor Advisory Committee, which in turn is tasked with recommending a figure to the ministry, which is expected to make a final decision next month.

Mr. Mony called the new working group “useless,” having no power to set the minimum wage, but said he would send a representative anyway to keep track of the proceedings.

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