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Deadline set for wage talks

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Garment industry officials negotiate the 2016 minimum wage yesterday at the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh, where Ith Samheng said that meetings would be concluded before Pchum Ben holidays. Photo supplied

Deadline set for wage talks

The government’s minimum wage-setting group, the Labour Advisory Committee, is due to convene on Thursday to decide on the garment sector’s minimum wage for next year, according to a document shared by employers.

The document, which was posted on the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia’s Facebook page yesterday, means that employers and unions will have to reach a consensus figure to send to the LAC during tripartite talks today.

If a consensus fails to come about, the figure will be decided by secret ballot and then forwarded to the LAC, which holds the final say over the wage.

Minister of Labor Ith Samheng yesterday said that a final figure would be announced before the Pchum Ben holidays next week.

“We cannot say exactly how much the wage will be increased,” he said, urging unions and workers not to demonstrate during the sensitive process.

However, as of yesterday, the proposed increases suggested by unions and manufacturers remain worlds away from each other.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour told reporters yesterday that unions want a 25 per cent increase to the current minimum wage of $128, while employers want a 4 per cent hike.

Although the differences are large – $160 versus $133.12 – Sour said the fact that both sides had agreed to concessions meant the process was going smoothly. Unions originally proposed $168, while employers conceded considerably less ground from their first offer of $132.48.

“The meeting developed positively since unions reduced their figures and employers increased their figure as well,” he said.

“We expect both parties to agree with each other in order to reach a vote [today],” Sour continued.

But Ken Loo, GMAC secretary general, said both sides remained distant.

“After these few days, we’re still pretty far apart, it’s been a stalemate pretty much for the last three or four sessions,” he said.

Loo dismissed the unions’ latest $160 proposal as being thought up without research from the seven criteria used to work out wage proposals by the working group. “It’s a work-backwards type thing.”

Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union Coalition, said government officials had tried to persuade employers to up their figure to no avail, with the parties ultimately planning to reconvene today to try again to come up with a number.

“We will not change anymore [from $160],” he said.

Last year, the LAC unilaterally set a final minimum wage different from the rates forwarded by the tripartite working group.

The move, made after employers and unions failed to reach a consensus, enraged manufacturers, who thought it was too much, and unions, who thought it was too little.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES ROLLET

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