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Unions push again for higher factory wages

Unions push again for higher factory wages

Owners of small factories say they aren’t included in discussions

I think that [garment factories] may consider an increase in wages of $5 to $6 instead."

REPRESENTATIVES from garment unions will meet with industry leaders and the government Monday in a bid to raise minimum salaries in the sector, the president of Cambodian Unions Federation (CUF) said.

The CUF wants factory owners to raise minimum salaries from US$50 a month to $93 in order to provide workers with a better standard of living, according to President Chuon Mum Thol. The issue will be discussed at a labour consultation meeting next week.

Chuon Mum Thol explained: “According to our research, $93 per month is enough to provide good living conditions and pay for food, house for rent, electricity and water.”

But other union officials questioned whether such a large wage increase is achievable when the sector has been hit hard by the economic crisis.

Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union, who will not attend the meeting, said: “I do not think they [the garment factory representatives] will agree to increase salaries from US$50 to $93 because their business is still being affected by the economic situation.

“I think that they may consider an increase in wages of $5 to $6 instead,” he added.

The worldwide slump in demand has had a direct affect on Cambodia’s garment sector. The Kingdom’s revenues from garment exports dropped to $716.2 million last year, a 23.8 percent slide compared to 2008.

Production centres throughout Cambodia have closed, putting tens of thousands out of work. Last year, according to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, 93 garment factories closed, causing 38,190 workers to lose their jobs. Another 60 factories suspended production, leaving 30,000 people without work.

In December, Cambodia was estimated to have 516 garment and footwear factories, which employed about 358,660 workers. The Post called 10 major garment factories on Monday, but no one was available for comment at any of them.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said Monday that he was in a meeting.

Representatives from smaller garment factories told the Post they have not been invited to the meeting. A spokeswoman for Fortune Garment and Woolen Knitting said she had not heard about the session.

Sat Navy, director of Navy Garment, said: “The government hasn’t called us about the meeting, but I don’t think it is possible to [raise pay] at a small garment factory like this.”

Meanwhile Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said that even if owners refuse to raise the minimum wage, meetings to discuss the issue will be held “again and again” in the future.

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