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Impasse at close of wage negotiations

The minimum wage in the garment and footwear industries will remain at $61 per month – for now – after unions and the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia (GMAC) failed to reach agreement on an increase yesterday.

During a second day of negotiations at the Ministry of Social Affairs, GMAC again proposed a $6 wage increase – an offer it had made the previous day – while the unions stood firm on their demands for a $120 minimum wage, a stance they relented slightly on late in the day.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said unions had been willing to go as low as $100 – forgoing a $5 additional health bonus – but could not accept what GMAC was offering.

“They have not given us a reason why they cannot meet our demands, and told us that if we don’t agree, let the government decide,” he said. “The unions will discuss this and meet again.”

GMAC’s offer of $72 would actually equate to an increase of only $6 – from $61 to $67 – because it includes a $5 health bonus workers already receive in addition to the minimum wage.

Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said the government had discussed increases of between $15 and $30, while the unions had shown maturity in standing firm on workers’ rights, despite agreeing to reduce their demands to $100.

Ultimately, however, no agreement had been reached and it was unclear what the next step would be, Welsh added.

“There’s no set plan to reconvene, so let’s see what happens.”

Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of a strike resolution committee at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said government officials would try to push the parties to resume negotiations next month with a view of raising the minimum wage in April.

“Employers have to think carefully before agreeing to this, and I think if they add more, it will not be much,” he said.

GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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