Cambodian labor leaders were invited yesterday to get involved in a continentwide campaign for a fair minimum wage for garment workers, though some expressed doubts over whether Cambodia’s unions could work together.
“This campaign is historic because Asian unions are coming together to bargain globally,” said Anannya Bhattacharjee, international coordinator of the Asia Floor Wage Campaign and a labor leader in India.
The AFW Campaign—which is supported by more than 70 labor organizations across 17 countries—calls for unions across the continent to demand a fair and standardized minimum living wage for garment workers, Ms Bhattacharjee said. The wage would be different in each country, but would represent the same purchasing power, she said.
The AFW Alliance, which organized the campaign, is hosting a two-day seminar in the capital’s Sunway Hotel set to end today. Representatives from many labor groups attended, including National Union Alliance Chamber Cambodia, the Cambodian Confederation of Unions and the Cambodian Labor Confederation.
There are currently no AFW members in Cambodia, Ms Bhattacharjee said.
Ath Thon, CLC president, said he supported the aims of the campaign but felt it would be difficult for Cambodian unions to come together on the issue of wages.
“All unions in Cambodia could work together on some areas like health…but for wage demands they cannot because some unions are affiliated to political parties,” he said.
On Tuesday, the CLC led a group of 12 unions to write to the Labor Ministry and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, calling for a minimum wage of between $73 and $95. Cambodia’s minimum wage is $61, set at a Labor Advisory Committee meeting last month.
Pan Ha, secretary of the Trade Union Workers Federation of Progress Democracy—which has about 15,000 members according to Mr Ha—said they have been invited to join the AFW campaign but have concerns given the lack of cooperation between Cambodian unions.
“They cannot join together because one union is CPP, another is opposition or independent,” he said.