Garment factory unions backed down from their demand for an $82 monthly minimum wage during negotiations with the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia in Phnom Penh Monday, officials said.
The 14 unions lowered their demands to $63 per month, said Som Aun, spokesman for the unions and president of the Cambodian Labor Union Federation.
The minimum wage for the garment industry is currently $45 a month and unions have threatened a general strike if their demands for a significant increase are not met.
Som Aun said that GMAC has offered a $2.50 increase to $47.50 per month.
“The unions are down to $63,” he said, adding that both sides agreed to reconvene talks Sept 30.
“If on the 30th there is no progress, we can move to another date,” he said. “We are giving GMAC some time to consider our offer.”
GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo declined to comment in detail about the negotiations.
“We have made some progress but there has not been a solution,” he said.
Chuon Mom Thol, president of the CPP-affiliated Cambodian Union Federation, said GMAC offered yearly increases of $2 to the $45 minimum wage.
“GMAC wants to raise [the monthly wage] $2 every year. It is so little money,” Chuon Mom Thol said.
“If the employer considers about $5 per year, maybe unions would consider that point of view,” he added.
He said that unions are sympathetic to some of the small factory owners but believe that larger factories can easily afford a greater increase to workers’ wages.
“The big, big factories are making progress. They have enough money to pay the workers between $60 to $70,” he said.
Another union representative said union negotiators may go on to raise other forms of non-wage payments to break the minimum-wage impasse.
“After talking about the wage, we want to talk about bonuses, [layoff] compensation, and transportation costs,” the representative said on condition of anonymity.