The Ministry of Social Affairs on Friday established four sub-committees tasked with finding a new minimum wage for the country’s 300,000-plus garment factory workers, Minister Ith Sam Heng said on Friday.
“The sub-committees have a limited time of five weeks for research before they have to find a result,” Mr. Sam Heng said after a meeting with union representatives and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Friday, adding that a joint decision on a new minimum wage would be agreed upon in November.
Wages could be raised as early as January, the minister said.
The sub-committees, which will have members from the Labor Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry, GMAC and union representatives, will be tasked with researching the factories’ real production prices, garment worker incomes and current living expenses as well as working standards in factories.
“We have not set a limit for the minimum wage yet. We have sub-committees to research details, and they consider direct interviews with workers,” said Khoun Ranin, undersecretary of state with the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The sub-committees, he said, would begin work as early as Monday.
The government’s renewed interest in the welfare of the country’s garment factory labor force follows after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP took a hammering in the July 28 national election.
Prior to the election, Mr. Hun Sen had said it was impossible to raise garment workers’ salaries to a then-demanded of $150 per month.
The opposition CNRP had promised in its election campaign to ensure a much higher minimum wage for garment factory workers if they defeated the CPP and take power.
The Ministry of Labor, GMAC, as well as labor union representatives of the Cambodian Union Federation, the National Alliance Chamber of Cambodia and the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) on Friday welcomed the planned sub-committees.
“I have seen the plan, it is good and I hope they [government officials] will conduct [their research] very well,” said Ath Thorn, CLC president.
In May, the government raised the sector’s minimum wage from $61 to $80, however, workers and unions said that the new minimum wage was still not enough to pay for their basic needs, and that the prices they pay for rent and food had spiked with the announced pay rise.
“We hope that they will provide a minimum wage of at least $147 to the garment workers,” Mr. Thorn said.