The National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) convened for its second tripartite meeting on August 28, aiming to determine a minimum wage for workers in Cambodia. Representatives from trade unions and employers gathered for discussions, though a definite base salary figure remains undecided.

Trade union representatives put forth two figures, $212 and $220.20, for consideration during the gathering.

Chaired by newly-appointed Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Heng Sour, the assembly focused on setting the 2024 base pay for the textiles, garment, footwear, bag and travel goods sectors.

Following the deliberations, Sour addressed the media, stating that the discussion primarily revolved around analysing conditions within the garment sector and responding to global buyers’ demands. The sector is currently grappling with reduced demand for products.

Sour highlighted the mutual understanding between trade unions and employers. The latter recognised the decline in workers’ incomes and garment exports, not just in Cambodia, but also in other countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

“Trade unions have acknowledged the decrease in demands for this sector. Both parties have not yet agreed on maintaining the current wage or implementing an increase, however,” Sour said.

He added: “We have seen some proposals from the trade unions. We hope that the differences between the parties won’t be insurmountable.”

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), said that the trade unions met on August 21, where one union proposed a $12 increase, while five independent trade unions proposed an increment of $20.20. These figures were intended to be presented at the upcoming third session on September 4.

Thorn also indicated the possibility of another trade union discussion to finalise a suitable figure. He hoped that Prime Minister Hun Manet and the labour minister would prioritise the well-being of workers.

In contrast, employer representatives expressed reluctance towards a pay increase in 2024. They cited substantial drops in purchases and orders compared to the previous year.

Ly Khun Thai, president of the Cambodian Footwear Association, emphasised the need for finding common ground. He stressed that trade union representatives should also consider the challenges faced by employers.

“If there’s an increase, it will worry employers due to dwindling orders. Many factories recently had no overtime work. Furthermore, the global economy hasn’t improved in 2023, and uncertainties persist for 2024,” added Thai.

The official monthly minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors for 2023 stood at $198. Former Prime Minister Hun Sen contributed $2 to make it $200, responding to workers’ concerns about rising food and accommodation costs.

Meanwhile, Manet will meet, for the first time in his capacity as prime mister, with nearly 20,000 factory workers on August 29 in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, according to Meas Sophorn, the head of the government spokesperson group.

He told the BTV media outlet that the meeting aims to comprehend the workers’ needs and assess the progress of the government’s policies’ implementation.