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Participants attend a Ministry of Labour-sponsored discussion on the minimum wage for garment workers in Phnom Penh yesterday. Facebook
Participants attend a Ministry of Labour-sponsored discussion on the minimum wage for garment workers in Phnom Penh yesterday. Facebook

Labour Minister seeks strike-free minimum wage talks

Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday told stakeholders involved in the upcoming minimum wage negotiations to base their demands on the country’s economic situation, and not to try to influence the process through protests or demonstrations.

Talks over the 2017 minimum wage for the garment sector are scheduled to start later this month. The current minimum wage is $140 a month.

“Disagreements over the minimum wage must not result in any protests because it will affect employers, the workers and even the government,” he said at a workshop on the topic.

Samheng said groups that resorted to protests or strikes would be held accountable, adding that they would be better served by conducting productive wage negotiations.

Factory owners, unions, the International Labour Organization and policy groups also spoke at yesterday’s workshop; however none gave an estimate on what they thought would be a likely minimum wage figure.

Samheng told attendees that Cambodia’s minimum wage was higher than most competing economies – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Laos – and lower than bigger ASEAN states such as Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

“So everyone must clearly use the economic situation and independent research in order to protect the benefits for all stakeholders,” he said.

Responding to the comments, Ath Thorn, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said workers were pushed to protest only when employers curtailed their rights.

The head of the pro-government Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions, Chhuon Momthol, said he agreed with Samheng’s suggestion to focus on what the nation could afford, adding negotiations should produce an acceptable result.

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