Garment Worker Unions Request Large Minimum Wage Hike

A coalition of around 20 garment worker unions were to deliver a joint statement today to the government and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia requesting an 86 percent hike in the minimum wage, a union leader said yesterday.

The joint statement was to call for the minimum wage to be raised to $93 per month from the present rate of $50, and requests a meeting with GMAC before the Labor Advisory Committee, a multiparty policy body, convenes on Thursday to discuss a possible wage increase, according to Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union, or C.CAWDU.

The unions planned to submit their statement to the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Assembly, the prime minister’s cabinet, and GMAC, he added.

“We have agreed to submit joint principles for increasing the minimum wage to $93 and having a bilateral meeting with GMAC,” Mr Thon said.

In late June, the government announced its support for a plan that would raise the minimum wage by $5 and incorporate an already existing $6 monthly living allowance that garment workers already receive into that figure.

Labor Minister Vong Sauth said yesterday he was too busy to talk to a reporter.

Moeun Tola, the head of the labor program at the Community Legal Action Center, said yesterday that Cambodian workers needed to make between $72 and $75 a month.

According to Mr Tola, garment factories could easily raise wages to this level due to increases in worker productivity over the past five years.

“Even if employers increased the amount of wages, they would still profit at least 31 percent,” he said. “According to our study, worker productivity is increasing every year.”

The research cited by Mr Tola, a 2009 study on the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment industry by the Cambodian Institute for Development Study, found that worker productivity in Cambodia increased from $235 per month in 2004 to $283.94 per month in 2009, while real wages fell during the same period.

“There is a big and increasing gap between value added per worker and wages,” the study concluded.

Reached yesterday, GMAC’s secretary-general, Ken Loo, called the new wage request “ridiculous” and said GMAC would not meet with labor leaders in advance of the LAC meeting.

“We will participate in the Labor Advisory Committee on July 8, and any bilateral meeting will be considered after the LAC meeting,” Mr Loo said. “It is ridiculous to ask for a near doubling of wages.”


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