Unions Agree to Reduce Wage Demands

As negotiations over a new minimum wage for the garment sector continued on Friday, union representatives agreed to temper their demands in exchange for concessions from manufacturers.

However, according to those present in yesterday’s meeting of the government’s Labor Advisory Committee, concessions were not forthcoming from the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which held steady with an offer of a 3.5 percent raise to the current monthly minimum wage of $128. 

Unions agreed among themselves this week that they would seek $168, a significant reduction from the $207 figure some were hoping for.

And yesterday, Mann Senghak, an adviser to the Free Trade Un­ion, said that they had decided to moderate their demands once again, but also asked employers to raise their offer.

“Unions have agreed to reduce [their demand] from a 31.74 percent [raise] to a 27.8 percent [raise], so that it’s $163.58,” Mr. Senghak said. “This clears the way for employers to increase more.”

“But this morning, employers did not raise their figure at the table discussion,” he continued. “They raised the issue of productivity, competition in the market. They kept their same stance of 3.5 percent.”

Mr. Senghak said if employers did not meet the unions’ concession with a higher figure, the unions would revert to their call for $168.

Two other union leaders—Ken Chhenglang, vice president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, and Ath Thorn, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union—both said they also agreed with the plan to offer roughly $164 in exchange for a higher figure from employers.

However, Yang Sophorn, head of the Cambodian Alliance Trade Union, said that she could not go along with the plan. “I think that if we reduce to [about] $163, workers will not have enough to spend on their living,” she said.

GMAC representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday, but have said in the past that they cannot afford more than a raise that mirrors the inflation rate, which is about 3 to 4 percent.

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