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Ministry orders worker survey

Employees leave a garment factory after work last year in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. The Ministry of Labour has called on the National Institute of Statistics to survey garment workers on their living conditions ahead of wage talks this year.
Employees leave a garment factory after work last year in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. The Ministry of Labour has called on the National Institute of Statistics to survey garment workers on their living conditions ahead of wage talks this year. Pha Lina

Ministry orders worker survey

The Labour Ministry has announced that the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) will survey garment workers on their living conditions ahead of minimum wage talks, though some unionists yesterday questioned the likely quality of the survey.

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng said last month that the nearly four-month-long wage talks would start this month and end when the 2018 minimum wage for garment and footwear workers is decided by the Labour Advisory Council (LAC) in October. The wage is currently $153 a month.

On Friday, Sam Heng’s ministry released a statement saying a survey would be conducted over 75 factories to facilitate a more informed negotiations process.

“The survey will start on 31 July 2017 [and go] until 28 August 2017 with the sample of 1,500 workers in 75 factories in Phnom Penh and the provinces,” the statement says.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for further information about the survey, which will mark the first time the NIS has conducted such a specific survey, even though its data, such as for commodity prices and inflation, have been used in past wage talks.

Unions have also conducted research to set their wage targets each year.

Officials attend a meeting last year chaired by Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (center) held at the Ministry of Labour, where the 2017 garment industry minimum wage was set at $153.
Officials attend a meeting last year chaired by Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (center) held at the Ministry of Labour, where the 2017 garment industry minimum wage was set at $153.

Yang Sophorn, president of the independent Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said yesterday she was sceptical of the decision to delegate the research to the NIS, which she said had no experience in the garment sector and had given unreliable data in the past.

“As far as I understand, the NIS only specialises in [research] of the population, economics and agriculture. It does not specialise in the garment and footwear industry,” Sophorn said, explaining that the task could have been given to members of the LAC.

“The ministry should conduct a separate survey, involving the three parties – government representatives, [employer representative] GMAC and unions – and then make a comparison with the NIS results,” she added, referring to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.

National Institute of Statistics Director Hang Lina said she was yet to be notified about the survey but confirmed that the body had never conducted such research.

GMAC’s Deputy Secretary General Kaing Monika could not be reached.

Cambodian Federation of Independent Trade Union President Tep Kim Vannary said the LAC had never conducted any such research but that her union would have its research team look into the living conditions of workers ahead of the wage talks.

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