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A man uses a megaphone to shout slogans during a labour protest as garment workers line the street in front of Phnom Penh’s National Assembly
A man uses a megaphone to shout slogans during a labour protest as garment workers line the street in front of Phnom Penh’s National Assembly yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Another wage body to form

Following a meeting with parliamentarians at the National Assembly yesterday, Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng announced the ministry would form a 27-member committee to study technical aspects of raising the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector.

The new committee will comprise nine representatives each from garment unions, factory owners and the government, Sam Heng said. He fell short of specifying how the ministry will form the committee or what, exactly, it will do.

“This mechanism will be discussed until it reaches a high agreement before the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) makes its decision [on 2015’s minimum wage],” Sam Heng told reporters yesterday. “I hope that the worker’s salary in 2015 is more than in 2014.”

Yesterday’s 9am meeting occurred a day after members of parliament told union leaders that the assembly committee overseeing labour would discuss next years’ floor wage with ministry officials.

Garment factory workers protest in Phnom Penh yesterday as Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng addressed the National Assembly’s questions
Garment factory workers protest in Phnom Penh yesterday as Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng addressed the National Assembly’s questions regarding the minimum wage in the garment sector. Heng Chivoan

Union leaders on the LAC and others not on the panel have agreed to demand $150 per month, while the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has offered to raise monthly minimum monthly wages from $100 to $110.

Community Legal Education Center consultant Joel Preston questioned what good another committee focused on wages would do when the issue has been studied by several commissions already.

“They did their research the last half of 2013 and they came to the concrete finding that workers need between $157 and $177,” Preston said, referring to a government study conducted last year.

While not optimistic that the technical committee will ensure unions the minimum wage they want, Kong Athit, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) – which is represented on the LAC – said he believes a positive effect is possible.

“I think if those on the committee work based on scientific and social evidence, they can do good,” Athit said. “But if they work based on their political [agendas] it will do no good.”

On the separate issue of five C.CAWDU members being called to Kampong Cham Provincial Court for questioning regarding a clash between strikers at Juhui Footwear factory and its management, Athit denounced the company for taking legal action.

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