Thousands of garment workers at one Phnom Penh factory, and about 100 more at another, protested Thursday over the new minimum wage set for the garment sector late last year, upset that those already earning higher salaries were overlooked.
After months of negotiations with unions and factories, the Labor Ministry decided in November to raise the monthly minimum wage for garment workers from $100 to $128. The new wage took effect in January, with the lowest paid workers picking up their first fattened pay checks this month.
About 3,000 workers from Quantum Clothing on Thursday demonstrated on factory-lined Veng Sreng Street demanding that those who were earning more than the minimum wage before January be given an extra $28 a month as well.
“We want the factory to give us another $28,” said Sok Sreymom, one of the protesting workers. “Without this money we earn very little. And we want the factory to give us more work to do so we can earn more money.”
Many factories have reduced overtime hours in recent months to cope with falling orders.
Chan Rath Keopisey, a local representative for the Free Trade Union, said the factory had agreed to provide more overtime and conceded to some other worker requests as well, including paid sick leave, but the workers were still deciding whether to continue protesting today.
The factory could not be reached for comment.
In a separate case, about 100 employees of Smart Shirts marched from the Stung Meanchey district factory to the National Assembly, with a brief stop at the Labor Ministry, to hand in a petition demanding a $28 raise for senior employees.
“About 300 workers at the factory need $28 more even though they make more than $100,” said Khuen Namhor, president of the Cambodia Federation Voices of Workers Union. “The factory can’t pay everyone the same.”
The workers also want the factory to rehire four recently fired workers, as it was ordered to do by the Arbitration Council.
In Dara, the factory’s head of administration, said the company would not pay its senior employees an extra $28 but would consider paying them $3 to $5 more per month if they stopped protesting and proved themselves hard workers. Nor would the factory rehire the four fired workers, he added.
“The four [union] representatives did not work when they were employed, but they incited the workers to protest against the factory,” Mr. Dara said.
Vong Sovann, deputy director of the Labor Ministry’s labor conflict department, said he met briefly with the marchers and hoped to schedule negotiations between the factory and union for Tuesday.