Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng pledged to rid the garment industry of corruption yesterday as a way of cushioning factories against an upcoming minimum wage increase.
In a meeting with Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, Kheng said ridding Cambodia’s biggest export industry of bribery – particularly between factory owners and corrupt government officials – would make it easier to increase the minimum wage.
However, the minister did not give specifics on how to tackle corruption or what he believed the minimum wage should be.
“We will eliminate under-the-table fees and resolve the issue [of the minimum wage] with transparency,” he said during the meeting. “I hope I can work with Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, to create a better environment for business.”
Unions have been demanding a minimum “living wage” of $177 per month, nearly double the current wage. The Ministry of Labour this week postponed a decision on a wage increase due to take effect in January.
Kheng also vowed yesterday to speed up the passing of a new trade union law, a draft of which an International Labour Organization official said in May was a “step backwards” for labour rights. Kheng said the law would help “control” the Kingdom’s “4,000 unions”.
Sou Ieng told reporters after the meeting that GMAC had urged the deputy prime minister to protect factories against violence caused by workers demanding a minimum wage increase. During wage protests last year, security forces shot dead at least five people when strikes turned violent in Phnom Penh.
Orders across all factories have decreased by 36 per cent this year and wage increases could force some factories to close and brands to look to neighbouring countries, Sou Ieng said.
“I am concerned about factories closing and the employer having no money to pay workers,” he said. “It is difficult to understand [unions’ demands] as the minimum wage was raised 30 to 40 per cent … and now [they demand] 70 per cent.”