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Unions to stick with push for $160 wage

The majority of union representatives attending a minimum wage forum yesterday favoured pushing for a $160 floor wage for Cambodia’s garment sector next year.

“Why don’t we set [minimum wage] at $160? That’s what we’ve been advocating for,” asked Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.

Few of the government or factory-affiliated unions invited to the meeting organised by the independent Cambodian Union Confederation (CLC) attended yesterday’s event, and those who showed up remained silent when the wage issue arose.

Sina and others seemed to take little note of CLC president Ath Thorn asking about a back-up offer in case those attending next week’s official conference held by the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) pushed for less.

“Why don’t we ask them to do it in 2014? Why let them exploit us longer?” Workers Friendship Union Federation president Seam Sambath said.

Minimum monthly wages in garment and shoe factories stands at $100. The raise from the previous $80 took effect in February.

About 30 of the 66 people invited to the discussion attended. The LAC’s workshop is scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday.

Unions and factory management this month are discussing among themselves what they are willing to fight or settle for regarding 2015’s garment wages. Union leaders will meet with factory representatives in August, followed by a September convention at the Ministry of Labour that will include government officials.

Thorn agreed with Sambath about pushing forward the timeline for a new minimum wage, saying he wanted it to take effect immediately after being decided upon in October.

Before wage talks, the group spent hours going through all articles of a draft trade union law they want changed, and plan on sending a letter to the Labour Ministry with their changes.

“This draft law is strict for workers,” Thorn said. “It even restricts gathering and protesting in front of factories.”

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