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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Room for compromise in wage debate: official

Room for compromise in wage debate: official

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and unions both need to compromise further to secure a “proper wage” for garment workers whose lives are hampered by their current $61 minimum wage, a Ministry of Social Affairs official overseeing wage negotiations said yesterday.

“The government needs the two sides to understand each other and agree,” Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the ministry’s strike resolution committee, said. “Maybe the unions can drop to $90 and GMAC can increase its offer to more than $70. [GMAC] needs to – but, equally, if the unions don’t do this, negotiations will not be completed.”

Talks ended in deadlock last week after GMAC offered an increase of $6, to $67 per month, and unions lowered their demands from $120 to $100.

In a meeting with the government on Monday, GMAC increased its offer to $70, or $75 with an existing health bonus not included in the current minimum wage, Sovann said.

GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said his association could not afford to pay $90 per month, so did not expect further talks with unions next week to end in a resolution.

“[$70] is what we can afford,” he said. “From past experience, it would be a long stretch to suggest there would be an outcome. The government would need to take a position on this.”

Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said unions would stand firm on $100 per month and workers would strike if it was not offered.

“We demand this wage, because we think about the increasing expenses workers have on a daily basis,” he said.

The sector’s minimum wage was also discussed at day two of Asia Floor Wage meetings in Phnom Penh yesterday, where Ashim Roy, general secretary of the Indian-based New Trade Union Initiative, said an increase to $100 would not adversely affect buyers’ interest in Cambodia.

“There won’t be a shift to Bangladesh,” he said. “And Myanmar has three or four years before it [can develop] a garment industry.”

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