Envoys of major clothing brands and retailers visited Phnom Penh this week to discuss how to achieve a “living wage” for Cambodia’s garment workers, while the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) contends the “uncompetitive” industry is slowing down as buyers pull out.
The visit this week by members of the Action Collaboration Transformation (ACT) initiative came as the Ministry of Labour set Wednesday for talks about raising the minimum wage in the garment sector from $128.
ACT, which includes the brands H&M, Arcadia, Tesco, Primark, Next, C&A and others, as well as global union IndustriALL, met with suppliers, trade unions, government officials, GMAC and the International Labour Association to canvass “whether and how” its aim of raising wages through “industry collective bargaining” could be applied in Cambodia.
Debate currently surrounds earnings for Cambodia’s more than 600,000 garment workers ahead of upcoming minimum wage discussions.
Unions initially proposed $178, although some are considering pushing for $207 after a recent report on the cost-of-living for employees in the Kingdom’s biggest export sector.
Amid this, GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo has warned of a slowdown as brands, faced with rising wages, pulled out in favour of other regional markets.
Loo said between 10 and 15 factories had suspended workers in the past month because of a drop in orders.
But Joel Preston, from the Community Legal Education Centre, said the suggestion by GMAC that the suspensions indicated an unprecedented slowdown was simply well-timed “fear mongering” ahead of the upcoming wage negotiations.