Workers Start Wage Battle a Day Early

About 1,000 workers from a Phnom Penh footwear factory got an early start on Tuesday on a cross-union campaign for a $177 minimum wage, set to start today, protesting in front of their factory over internal workplace grievances.

Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, which led the demonstration, said the workers from Huey Chuen factory, on National Road 1 in Chbar Ampov district, walked out over the firing of a colleague.

“At the same time that we held the protest, we also started our campaign on National Road 1 to show other workers and people that we have started our campaign to demand a $177 minimum wage,” Mr. Saly said.

The push for a $77 increase to the current base wage of $100 per month, which is being organized by eight unions, is set to begin in earnest today.

Unions plan to hand out more than 100,000 stickers to workers at up to 300 factories, hand out T-shirts bearing “$177” and deliver speeches during lunch breaks. They will also petition global brands and foreign embassies for support.

The campaign is being held as minimum wage negotiations reach their closing stages, with the government and factories pushing for a modest $10 raise for the new floor wage, set to take effect in January.

Sandra D’Amico, a member of the Labor Advisory Council, a body comprised of employers, government representatives and unions, said Monday that final talks on next year’s minimum wage would take place on September 26 and 27.

If an agreement cannot be reached, Ms. D’Amico said, a second and final vote would be held on October 8.

Ken Chhenglang, vice president of National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, said he had received an invitation from the Ministry of Labor on Tuesday to attend a meeting today to discuss the minimum wage.

However, both he and Mr. Saly said they would not attend.

“The meeting is intended to stop us from holding our campaign as [the ministry] knew that we planned to hold it a long time ago,” Mr. Chhenglang said.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

dara@cambodiadaily.com

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