GMAC, Unions Fail To Agree on Wage Increase

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.

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