The National Council for Minimum Wage (NCMW) have set September 21 as the date of the final vote to determine minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors for 2023.

The council said its members were still unable to agree on a figure, with employers’ representatives proposing $197 and the government suggesting $198. Employees’ representatives, meanwhile, have proposed three different figures.

The decision was announced following the conclusion of the 4th tripartite talks between the council’s 51 members on September 13.

A September 13 letter to Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng, signed by representatives of the tripartite, no consensus had been reached despite many meetings.

“Pursuant to articles 12 and 13 of the Minimum Wage Law, we will submit our final position on the minimum wage figures for workers in the garment, footwear and travel goods sectors for 2023. It will be submitted to the NCMW for a vote at 8:30am on September 21,” said the letter.

The announcement stated that the employees’ representatives had cast eight votes for $206, three for $210 and six for $214.

The union representatives raised eight additional points while the employer side offered three. Both sides have asked the government to intervene and provide more favourable conditions for them.

The unions requested that employers increase travel and meal allowances, and ensure that safety standards were introduced for workers’ transportation. They also asked employers to consider paying a higher salary than the minimum wage.

They also asked the Ministry of Health to ensure that medics adhere to a professional code of ethics and increase the attention they pay to members of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and suggested that the government accelerate access to the NSSF for informal economy workers and self-employed individuals. In addition, they asked if it were possible for the relevant authorities to lower water and electricity tariffs.

Last, they asked the labour ministry to provide more training courses to improve the productivity and skills of workers.

The three proposals by the employers’ representatives included a reduction in logistics costs – especially freight charges, port fees and container imbalance fees by shipping companies – reduced electricity tariffs and favourable incentives to install solar energy sources. They also implored the government to implement a strategy to develop the garment, footwear and travel goods sectors from 2022-2027.

Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour, who has been facilitating the talks as a government representative, said the final decision would be made one week before the end of Pchum Ben holiday.

Ky Sereyvath, an economics analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, cautioned that the government should take into account the minimum wages in neighbouring countries, as the Kingdom needs to remain competitive.

He cited the latest study indicating that minimum wages in Cambodia are higher than those in neighbouring Vietnam, saying this could pose a risk to the industry.

“The negotiations should focus on the long term, because we are in competition with several of our neighbours, the strongest of which is Vietnam. Obviously, workers want higher wages, but we need to remember that if factories cannot compete, they close – and then wages fall to zero,” he said.

In 2021, after the NCMW voted to keep the 2022 minimum wage unchanged at $192, Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped in to add $2 to the total, making the minimum wage for 2022 $194 per month.