THE head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation said yesterday that its 50,000 members would join a three-day strike scheduled for later this month if the minimum wage for garment workers was not raised to US$93 per month.
Ath Thun, who is also head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, issued his strike threat one day after the CLC said that the wage hike was necessary in light of the rising cost of food, accommodation and transportation.
In a statement issued on June 25, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Affairs called for a $5 increase to the minimum wage for garment workers, now at $50.
The statement also said garment workers should receive “another $6 as a living supplement to the basic salary”. Workers already receive a $6 cost-of-living allowance on top of their salaries.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which claims to represent more than 80,000 workers, has called for the wage to be increased to $70.
Last month, he threatened to stage a three-day sit-down strike beginning on July 13 if that demand wasn’t met.
Yesterday Ath Thun said the proposed increase from the Labour and Social Affairs ministries was unacceptable.
“Even though they have approved to increase the workers’ salaries by $11, we will not support it,” he said.
“If they still disagree, we will protest, and all demonstrations will appear at the same time with Chea Mony.”
The CLC consists of roughly 50,000 members of unions including the CCAWDU, the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation and the Independent Democratic Informal Economy Association.
Unions and garment factory owners agreed in 2006 to discuss changes to the minimum wage by the end of this year, but there has been no consensus among unions on a suitable increase. Whereas Ath Thun and Chea Mony have called for wages of $93 and $70, respectively, Chuon Mumthol, president of the pro-Cambodian People’s Party Cambodian Union Federation, said last month that he was satisfied with the government’s recommendation.
Officials with the Labour Advisory Committee are scheduled to meet union representatives and factory owners on Thursday to discuss issues including the minimum wage, according to the June 25 press release from the Social Affairs and Labour ministries.
Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Cheat Khemara, senior labour officer at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, described the government’s proposal as a “first step”, and said that factories would likely close if a $93 minimum wage ever went into force.
“The government offered the $11 increase after they discussed and researched very carefully,” he said.