Unions Argue Over Wage Committee Reforms

Meeting for a minimum wage workshop on Tuesday, the country’s independent and government-aligned unions argued over reforms to the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), the body in charge of setting the minimum wage in the garment sector, which employs some 600,000 workers.

The LAC, which is composed of representatives of the government, factory owners, and unions, came under heavy criticism from independent unions in December when it rushed through a new minimum wage of $95, a $15 increase that fell far short of union demands for a $160 monthly wage, leading to nationwide strikes that paralyzed the garment industry and ultimately turned violent.

Morm Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, blamed the ineffectiveness of the LAC on the fact that some of the union representatives worked for the government.

“We have seen that the LAC is unjust when raising the minimum wage for the workers because Mr. Chuon Mom Thol is an adviser to the Ministry of Labor and Mr. Sam Aun is an official at the Council of Ministers, so their role would affect any working decision,” Ms. Nhim said.

Mr. Mom Thol is also president of the Cambodian Union Federation, while Mr. Aun is president of the Cambodian Labor Union Federation.

Asked about Ms. Nhim’s criticism on the sidelines of the workshop, Mr. Mom Thol said that Rong Chhun, a non-government aligned labor leader, should also be subjected to scrutiny for his position in the Ministry of Education.

With the first meeting of the government’s special committee to review minimum wages and civil servants wages set for this week, Mr. Chhun said that if the group does not discuss raising the minimum wage, seven non-government aligned unions would organize a strike.

“[I]f there is no appropriate result for us, we will submit a letter with Phnom Penh City Hall to hold a second mass protest to push for an increase of the minimum wage to $160,” Mr. Chhun said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, said Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon would convene a government-only minimum wage meeting on Thursday.

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