Unions Call for New Wage Negotiations

Thirteen of the country’s labor unions, unsatisfied with last month’s $5 increase to the national minimum wage for garment workers, will send a joint letter today to the Ministry of Labor and the employers association demanding a new round of negotiations, union leaders said yesterday.

Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which comprises the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union and the Cambodian National Confederation, said that 13 labor federations and associations would jointly sign the letter and submit it to the Labor Ministry and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia today.

“We want the labor ministry to give us a chance to renegotiate with employers over a new minimum wage,” he said.

Mr Thon said unions would wait until Aug 15 for an answer before taking matters further.

“In case there is no response from the employer association within these days, we will strike in the factories,” he said.

According to an unsigned copy of the letter obtained yesterday, the unions are calling for a minimum wage between $75 and $93. The letter also asks for a series of bonuses, such as a $10 monthly reward for workers with perfect attendance and a food allowance during overtime hours.

The unions are also demanding a yearly meeting on the minimum wage. The Labor Advisory Committee, a policy-making body composed of industry, government and union representatives, currently meets approximately every four years to fix the national minimum.

Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said he had signed the letter.

“We work together in principle. Surely we have a stance to get a new negotiation,” he said.

The Free Trade Union, which claims to represent around 86,000 workers, is not named as a signatory to the letter. FTU President Chea Mony could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The last LAC meeting on July 8 instituted a $5 increase in the minimum wage, bringing it to $61 per month for the 297,000 workers employed in the textile industry.

GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo said yesterday he had not yet seen the document, but said the association would not discuss the minimum wage as the matter had already been settled.

“The LAC has already made this decision,” he said.

He said the association would discuss topics other than the minimum wage, but felt the unions should have contacted the association directly if they wanted to talk.

“This is definitely the first official request we have had from CCAWADU to negotiate anything,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ian Williamson)


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