Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - H&M eyes ‘fair wage’ push

H&M eyes ‘fair wage’ push

Garment workers hold a banner during a protest in Freedom Park late last year calling for an increase to the industry’s minimum wage.
Garment workers hold a banner during a protest in Freedom Park late last year calling for an increase to the industry’s minimum wage. Vireak Mai

H&M eyes ‘fair wage’ push

Amidst ongoing negotiations to boost the minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia, H&M, the world’s second-largest fashion retailer, has rolled out a program aimed at improving pay in the Kingdom’s factories, arguing that higher wages improve industrial relations and productivity.

The introduction of the “fair wage method” in 68 factories in China, Bangladesh and Cambodia will focus on ensuring workers receive wage improvements “regularly and fairly”, although no exact wage level is being set, an H&M representative said yesterday.

The new program comes at a time when the government’s Labour Advisory Committee is supervising sensitive discussions over raising the minimum wage, which is to be decided in October.

“I want the negotiation for the minimum wage this year to go smoothly, so it can be accepted by everybody,” said Labour Minister Ith Samheng at a workshop on the issue in Phnom Penh yesterday.

“We want the two parties [labour and management] to be in harmony.”

Trade unions are demanding a raise to $177 per month from the current $128, which they say will cover rising living costs in the Kingdom.

But a majority of the members in Cambodia’s garment manufacturers association voted in August that they could not afford to pay a single dollar more.

Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), praised the negotiations, saying they were a better alternative to what he considered politically driven protests.

“This time, I want to appeal to everyone at this workshop that the minimum wage must be in accordance with economic reality, which is about harmonising workers’ living standards so employers can pay them better than through the political way,” he said.

Unions said they would hold back from demonstrating about the issue during negotiations, but wouldn’t hesitate to take to the streets if the final deal was not in their favour.

“We don’t know if we will get our demands or not during the discussion,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU).

In a bid to underline the necessity of a $177 per month wage, Thorn said a report would be released on Friday conveying the true cost of living for garment workers.

But GMAC has already responded with research of its own, saying in a statement released on Monday that wage negotiations and an upcoming trade union law are “rocking garment buyers’ confidence in Cambodian factories”.

According to GMAC’s report, only 7 per cent of 167 member factories surveyed said a raise above $5 would be sustainable, while 86 per cent expected garment exports to drop in the second half of this year as prices stagnated.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of GMAC, said that since the minimum wage increased to $128 in January, higher wages had not caused labour relations or productivity to improve, pointing to increased factory closures and union protests at the Ministry of Labour “every day”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the