The Kingdom’s garment manufacturers yesterday called for higher productivity in the sector ahead of a projected rise in the minimum wage of garment workers, although some unions questioned their commitment to enhancing efficiency given the industry’s choppy labour relations.
Following the announcement this month that 2016’s wage would increase to $140 from the current $128, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia called for “a renewed focus on productivity”, and urged buyers to increase their prices for Cambodian goods.
“Wages account for a massive portion of a factory’s operating costs. We now need to see all parties, including the buyers, focus on improving productivity to help offset rising costs and keep factories economically viable,” GMAC secretary general Ken Loo said in yesterday’s statement.
The statement, which did not suggest any specific policies to increase productivity, went on to praise the negotiations process for setting the minimum wage, although it criticised the four trade unions that walked out for violating internal rules.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, welcomed the call for increased productivity, but said output wouldn’t change if factories did not improve conditions.
“What [employers] have to do is to have skilful management, stop discriminating against workers, and stop using short-term contracts,” Thorn said.
Thorn added that employers had shown little interest in upgrading outdated machinery or broad skills training.
Loo, however, said yesterday that employers were not holding back productivity, saying worker resistance to even small changes, such as moving a worker to a different section of the production line, was rife.
“A lot of the burden is on workers to cooperate with employers to enhance [productivity].”
Although GMAC is building a garment training centre slated to open September of next year, Loo said other policies to up productivity should be left to individual factories.
William Conklin, country director of the US-based Solidarity Center, said it was “a bit rich” for employers to suggest that workers needed to cooperate with employers given factories’ history of sponsoring pro-employer unions to divide the shop floor.
“Unions or others would welcome collaboration with employers, but up to now they haven’t really tried to work with unions.”