The first day of negotiations between the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia and unions over demands for a rise to the $45 minimum wage proceeded amicably but failed to reach an agreement, officials said Monday. Both sides agreed to meet again Sept 18.
Officials from GMAC and 17 unions met for a full day behind closed doors at a Phnom Penh hotel. Both sides declined to make official statements after the talks concluded.
“The negotiations are still ongoing,” Vann Sou Ieng, GMAC chairman said, referring questions to International Labor Organization facilitator John Richotte.
The unions appointed Cambodian Labor Union Federation President Som Aun as a spokesman, but he declined comment.
One union official said both sides laid out their arguments, with unions presenting increased costs of living for workers, and GMAC saying that corruption made it difficult for factories to raise wages.
“The result for today’s negotiations is nothing because GMAC still kept the stance that they spend a lot of under-the-table money and for transportation…and they raised the example of low salaries in Bangladesh,” the delegate said.
At stake in the talks are the livelihoods of some 300,000 garment workers and the families in the provinces who depend on them. The unions have threatened a general strike if their demands for an $82 per month minimum wage are not met, while manufacturers say such a hike could drive them to neighboring countries with lower costs.
The delegate said some unions do not expect to get $82 a month, but hoped GMAC would understand the financial hardships workers face.
Richotte said the talks were positive and had produced progress, but declined comment on the issues discussed.
“People are talking and they plan to continue talking. No one walked out. There has been no breakdown,” said Alonzo Suson of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.
Notably absent were Chuon Mom Thol, head of the CPP-affiliated Cambodian Union Federation and Rong Chhun, the outspoken head of the Cambodian Federation of Unions, which includes the 70,000-strong Free Trade Union. The union delegate said both men, who could not be reached for comment, were outside the country.