Gov’t, Factories, Unions to Vote on Minimum Wage Today

Government, factory and union representatives tasked with proposing a new monthly minimum wage for the garment sector will vote Wednesday to find a figure after once again failing to reach a consensus during negotiations in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the working group, composed of 15 representatives from each of the three sides, made some progress toward a single proposed raise to the current minimum wage of $128, but not nearly enough to make an agreement appear likely.

He said the employers upped their proposed raise to 4 percent, while the unions came down to 25 percent.

With the two still so far apart, Mr. Sour said, “the working group will vote tomorrow at 1 p.m. to find a single figure to give the LAC [Labor Advisory Committee]. The LAC will then meet on Thursday.”

The job of the LAC, a smaller group of government, factory and union representatives, will be to consider the result of the vote and propose a new wage to the Labor Ministry, which is expected to make the final decision by the end of the month.

The factories want to keep the raise at or around the current rate of inflation and warn that anything higher would price Cambodia out of the market and drive buyers to other low-wage competitors such as Bangladesh and Burma, or to more productive rivals like Vietnam.

Independent unions say the factories are lying about how much of a raise they can afford and that most workers struggle to get by on what they currently earn.

Ath Thorn, who leads the largest independent union in the country, said he was planning to bring as many as 100,000 of his members out of their factories for an hour Wednesday to call on employers to give them the 25 percent raise they are asking for.

“We will campaign to show our muscle by protesting at the factories from 11 a.m. to 12,” he said. “We want to show the government, employers and buyers what the workers want and that if they give us less, there may be strikes.”

Mr. Thorn and several other unions leaders were prosecuted for leading what the government deemed to be illegal strikes and protests over the minimum wage in 2013.

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