Unions Reduce Wage Demand To $63 Monthly

Union leaders decided Monday to issue an Oct 30 deadline to garment factories to raise the industry’s min­imum wage to an “acceptable level” or they will go on strike.

Manufacturers and 17 union lead­­ers met behind closed doors three times in September. Af­ter the latest round Sat­urday, unions lowered their monthly wage de­mand from $82 to $63. The Garment Man­u­facturers Association of Cam­bodia had of­fered to raise the $45 a month minimum to $47.75.

“It must be finished by Oct 30,” said National Independent Fed­eration Textile Union President Morm Nhim. Otherwise, she said, “we will an­nounce a strike with the interunion federation.”

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony said that if the GMAC talks fail and a strike en­sues, unions would likely seek se­pa­rate wage agreements with individual factories.

Labor Ministry Secretary of State Oum Mean said he was following negotiations closely and that only FTU is pressing for a strike. “The gap is closing [between union and factory offers],” he said.

But CPP-backed Cambodian Union Federation President Chuon Mom Thol said all unions agreed on the new negotiation deadline. “After the deadline there must be a strike. It is a collective strike, it is not just Chea Mony who wants it,” he said.

GMAC Chairman Vann Sou Ieng called the union deadline “unethical.” “One negotiating partner should not threaten another,” he said. “The 40 percent increase in the mi­nimum wage they ask for? No way. It is not possible. The 7 per­cent in­crease we have offered is one we can pay.”

Vann Sou Ieng said that union claims that workers cannot survive on $45 alone are “nonsense.” “Every day 300,000 people go to work in the garment factories, if they could not live on that they would not go,” he said. “If unions want to break off ne­go­tiations, I would suggest letting mar­­ket forces decide the wage and aban­doning the minimum wage.”

He said that unions were gambling with the livelihoods of their members and that a $63 minimum wage could cause the entire garment industry to collapse. “Vi­etnam is so much more developed and costs are lower and they have only a $55 minimum wage. How can we be higher than that?”


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