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Garment workers line up with banners in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park yesterday during a rally calling for the minimum monthly wage in the sector to be increased to $177
Garment workers line up with banners in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park yesterday during a rally calling for the minimum monthly wage in the sector to be increased to $177, up from the existing $100 rate. Vireak Mai

Thousands rally over wage

Some 2,000 unionists supporting an increase in the monthly minimum wage to $177 in Cambodia’s garment sector marched to several embassies yesterday and set up a meeting between labour leaders and parliamentarians at the National Assembly this morning.

Led by six unions, the group, donning pink shirts reading “We need a Decent Wage” and carrying banners with slogans including “Gap Starves Cambodian Workers”, the group congregated at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park yesterday at about 8:30am.

From there, they marched and delivered petitions to the embassies of the United States and European Union, ending at the National Assembly, where several MPs met them outside, promising to meet with two representatives of each of the unions leading the crowd at 9am today.

“We expect that [the MPs] will solve the problems we have raised,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, one of the unions leading the rally. “If they cannot solve the problem, they will lose our support.”

The march came less than a week after Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng postponed until next month the Labour Ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) decision on next year’s industrial minimum wage. LAC members were originally scheduled to determine floor salaries last Friday.

Workers have campaigned for a minimum of $177 monthly, up from the current $100, but the seven unions on the LAC – none of which participated in yesterday’s event – have reached a consensus of $150.

They must reach an agreement with the 14 other LAC members representing factories and the government.

Authorities blocked demonstrators from marching to the EU mission, but allowed union representatives to deliver the petition asking for the pay raise, an end to current prosecutions against union leaders and several other points.

When they reached the National Assembly, opposition lawmakers Eng Chhay Eang, Ke Sovannroth and Mu Sochua met the leaders on the street.

“We need a productive labour force,” Sochua said, noting bipartisan support for increased wages. “We’re not talking about party politics.”

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