Working Group Minimum Wage Vote Due Wednesday

A group of union leaders, factory owners and government representatives set up to negotiate a recommendation for a new minimum wage in the garment sector is due to meet Wednesday for a vote on a final figure, according to those involved in the talks.

Nine representatives each from the unions, factories and government were brought together this month in an effort to assist the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) in determining a new minimum wage, set to take effect in January, that is acceptable to all parties.

Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodia Union Federation, said the working group would meet at the Labor Ministry this morning in an attempt to reach a consensus. The majority of unions, he said, were seeking a minimum wage of $140 per month, up from the current $100.

“We will meet and try to find a number, and if not, we will vote in secret to get a number that we will send to the LAC,” Mr. Mom Thol said.

The Labor Ministry is expected to make a final decision on a new minimum wage next month.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said representatives were due to sign a report that details each side’s views on the wage prior to the vote.

He claimed there was “huge pressure” on factory representatives to vote for a $120 minimum wage—$10 above the figure that the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has been insisting upon—after the government put forward data showing the poverty line in Phnom Penh is $120.

“They have no choice, because it is from a government study. Therefore, they have to respect it,” Mr. Sina said.

But asked if GMAC would consider changing its stance in light of the figure, secretary-general Ken Loo replied: “No. That [$110] is the level that we can afford.”

Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said her union would stand alone in calling for a $177 wage—the amount backed by unions when negotiations over a new wage began earlier this year.

“We will continue to demand $177 since the employers have not softened their stance from $110,” she said.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by Holly Robertson)

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