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Garment benefit talks held

Garment benefit talks held

Industry representatives and unions representing garment workers met yesterday to negotiate on worker benefits following unrest in the sector last year that brought thousands of workers to the streets.

The parties discussed overtime meal allowances, seniority bonuses and attendance incentives, reaching a compromise on the first but deferring negotiations on the other two issues because an agreement could not be reached.

“The unions agreed to accept 2,000 riel (US$0.50) for an overtime meal allowance, although we requested 2,500 riel. The workers will receive this amount whether they work an extra half hour or two hours,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.

On the other issues, Ath Thorn said, employers recommend a $1 annual bonus for each year a worker remains at a company between 5 and 10 years. The unions requested $3 for the seniority bonus and opposed the 10-year bonus ceiling. The union representatives also requested an annual attendance incentive of $9, but GMAC refused to go above $7.  

GMAC secretary general Ken Loo confirmed that the sides had reached an agreement on overtime meal allowances but did not provide further details.

Som Aun, president of National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, said an additional meeting was a possibility, but that failing that, the sides could address the issue at the end of the month with the Labour Advisory Committee. The LAC includes government officials as well as union and industry representatives.

The LAC has given the parties until the end of this month to reach a compromise. Since time is running short, Loo said the issue would likely go to the LAC without an additional meeting.

“It is up to the LAC whether it will take a decision or give more time to direct negotiations,” he said.

Tens of thousands of garment workers protested in September over a decision to increase the monthly minimum wage by  $5, an amount they claimed was inadequate. After several days on strike, workers called off the protests pending negotiations to address benefits.

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