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Union group threatens to strike

A COALITION of 13 union leaders sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia yesterday threatening to organise strikes unless talks are scheduled by August 15 to renegotiate the sector’s newly established minimum wage.

The leaders reiterated their objection to a decision last month by the Labour Advisory Committee, a body made up of government officials and industry representatives, to raise the minimum monthly wage for garment workers by US$11 to $61. Some in the labour movement had been calling for the wage to be increased to as much as $93 per month.

“We don’t want conflict, but we want to find justice for the workers who work hard but receive low wages,” said Cambodian Labour Confederation President Ath Thun.

But Chuon Momthol, the deputy director of the Labour Advisory Committee and president of the Cambodian Union Federation, said the wage had already been finalised and dismissed talk of a strike. The LAC ruled that the wage can next be renegotiated in 2014.

“Ath Thun can do this in the factories where members of his union work, but he can’t do it all over the country,” Chuon Momthol said. “We cannot keep holding negotiations again and again just because they ask for them.”

Chuon Momthol said that “90 percent” of workers were satisfied with the wage increase, which will be instituted in October.

The minimum wage for garment workers was last renegotiated in 2006, when it was increased from $45 per month to $50.

In a series of incidents last month, thousands of workers in the garment sector staged wildcat strikes in protest of the new minimum wage.

GMAC secretary general Ken Loo confirmed having received the letter, but said he could not comment as he had yet to read it. Officials at the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE AND SAM RITH

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