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Council sets Sept 23 for final worker minimum wage talks

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A tripartite meeting on minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors for 2023 held at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on August 15. LABOUR MINISTRY

Council sets Sept 23 for final worker minimum wage talks

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will arrange a tripartite meeting six times to continue discussions and set September 23 as the last date for a base wage in textile-related sectors for 2023.

The dates were set after the National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) held its first meeting to discuss setting a 2023 minimum wage of workers in the garment, footwear and travel goods sectors at the ministry headquarters on August 15.

The NCMW issued a statement saying that it would arrange a series of meetings on August 24 and 31, and September 7, 14, 22 and 23 at the ministry.

The council said that at the first meeting, it had presented updated figures of formal data and reputable academic research on social criteria – such as household status, inflation rates and the cost of living – and economic criteria including productivity, competitiveness of the country, the labour market situation and sectoral profitability to negotiate the 2023 minimum wage.

“We listened to the positions of each representative and party in terms of change in social and economic criteria,” said the statement.

“Representatives of factory owners and workers could not confirm their figures yet, requesting another internal meeting,” it noted.

In 2021, the votes tallied up to 45 in favour of the $192 wage, six for the $204 figure and no votes cast at all for the employers’ proposal that the minimum pay be lowered to $188.

In a notice issued after the vote, the ministry said Prime Minister Hun Sen was adding another $2 to the $192 figure, an idea which the council overwhelmingly voted in favour of.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said the first meeting had come to nothing yet. Trade union parties would verify their suggestions at an internal meeting to determine a specific figure to base negotiations on at the series of meetings.

However, he said the ministry’s presentation of its criteria at the first meeting had many negative signs which were contrary to what the trade unions saw as improving, such as exports and inflation that were favourable conditions for a pay raise for workers.

“We have seen that exports have improved for now, but during the presentation they predicted that by year’s end, exports would be down. We note that inflation has risen as high as five per cent, but their predictions are that it will be lower in 2023,” he added.

“These points are negatives, but we often see this in their presentations. Employers have no issues to raise, but use predictions of future problems as a pretext for not offering a pay rise. As trade union organisers, we will still attempt to negotiate the best deal we can for the workers we represent,” he continued.

Sina noted that the unions would not accept a wage of $210 to $220 because the number would not improve the livelihood of workers, amid the soaring cost of goods.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), could not be reached for comment on August 15. However, he told The Post on August 7 that at this stage, the association acknowledged the difficult situation facing the Kingdom’s workers and the delicate balance between supporting their living conditions and improving the industry’s competitiveness.

Monika opined that while the sector experienced robust export performance in the first half of the year, the unstable global environment and economic downturn in the Western countries that constitute some of the biggest buyers of Cambodian garments translate to “serious concern over the export situation for the second half”.

Citing a recent study by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), Monika said only 39 per cent of companies in Cambodia made a profit last year, 43 per cent lost money, while 18 merely broke even.

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