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Sides dig in over minimum wage

Unions and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) are unlikely to walk out of their final minimum wage meeting today with an agreed-upon increase for workers, industry insiders said yesterday.

Both parties have reaffirmed their respective positions: GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said yesterday that “nothing’s changed” and his association would enter the meeting offering garment and footwear workers $70 per month, while Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said unions did not intend to accept below $100.

“We think this is a suitable figure for employers to pay their workers,” Chhun said.

The likelihood of GMAC being enticed above its $9 increase offer during today’s meeting seemed unlikely, an industry insider, who did not want to be named, said.

“This figure is as high as they are willing to go,” the source said.

Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, also said GMAC was not willing to offer more to the industry’s 400,000-plus workers.

“Publicly and privately, employers are not willing to budge,” he said. “The sides seem very far apart.”

Talks last month resulted in GMAC offering workers $67 per month and unions refusing to go below $100. GMAC last week raised its offer to $70.

“If the gap can’t be closed, the likely scenario is that the government imposes a wage,” Welsh said. “They have been putting pressure on from $15 to $30.”

The government, was, however, suggesting it did not want higher wages to frighten off brands, he added.

“It’s ludicrous when you look at the profit margins. It would be ridiculous that they would pull out because they can’t pay $100.”

Vong Sovann, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ strike resolution committee, played down suggestions today’s meeting was a foregone conclusion.

“I cannot say whether [the two parties] will reduce or increase their demands. We are going to wait and see,” he said, adding the government would take action if no agreement was reached.

“I’m not sure yet whether we suggest to the prime minister that we set or approve a new minimum wage or what.”

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