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Negotiations to continue for next year’s minimum wage

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Factory workers commute in the back of a lorry along National Road 5 after having finished work. Hong Menea

Negotiations to continue for next year’s minimum wage

Negotiations for next year’s minimum wage will continue this week as the parties work to reach an agreement that will impact about 800,000 workers in the textile, garment and footwear industries, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said on Thursday.

Representatives for workers have already agreed to reduce their demand from $199 to $197 per month, while representatives for employers have agreed to increase their offer from $184 to $184.50 per month, it said.

Cambodia’s minimum wage is currently $170 per month.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) calculates that minimum wages should increase between four and five per cent from last year.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on Sunday that the meetings this week would allow both parties to reach a common figure before P’chum Ben celebrations begin on September 27.

“The atmosphere of negotiations has a level of maturity and mutual understanding. I thank the ILO for helping to improve the capacities of relevant parties, especially of unions and their understanding of economic principles and the criteria for setting wages,” he said.

Nang Sothy, who represented employers during negotiations, told The Post on Sunday that they had tendered their offer after conducting exhaustive technical calculations.

Sothy who is also the deputy director of the National Council on Minimum Wage said that employers were unable to make higher offers during the last five meetings as their calculations took into account a slew of factors.

These included the fallout of potentially losing both the European Union’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement and the US General System of Preferences.

“The increase in wages by even $1 or $0.50 is not easy because garment work is calculated in pennies. So employers must keep a strict stance during discussions. In the end, if no agreement is reached then we will decide wages by a democratic vote,” he said.

Som Aun, who has represented garment workers during meetings, said both parties had their respective reasons for making their offers, although he was unsure what figure he would take to this week’s meetings.

“We’ve already compared our negotiations with others in the region facing similar situations. Our workers must earn a better livelihood.

“If our workers have decent salaries, they will be encouraged to work more productively and help to address other problems too. Also, if salaries are equal to other countries, then employees will stop migrating.

“The issue of migration is an important one, especially if the salary in our country is low,” said Aun who is also vice-chair of the National Council of Minimum Wage.