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

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • Passing the test: Is Cambodia’s education system failing its people?

    The Kingdom’s education system needs to grow its people but some flaws might stifle​ this growth Coming from the Khmer Rouge occupation, with the loss of many scholars and academicians and a collapsed government, the education system had to be reconstructed from scratch – one

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia