Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Sam Rainsy yesterday told unionists that his party supports a minimum wage increase in the Kingdom’s garment industry to $180 per month in 2016.
Speaking to more than 100 Free Trade Union (FTU) representatives from about 60 factories at FTU’s headquarters in Phnom Penh, the opposition party leader said that the current minimum wage of $128 per month does not meet garment workers’ living expenses.
“One hundred and twenty-eight dollars is not enough for our workers,” Rainsy said. “So please demand $180 per month, and I, Sam Rainsy, president of the CNRP, will support all of you in trying to achieve a minimum wage of at least $180 per month.”
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.
Workers in the garment sector this year received a $28-per-month minimum wage raise a year after negotiations sparked a national strike in the industry, and after the CNRP threw its weight behind unionists’ demands in the wake of the disputed 2013 elections.
Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legal Education Center’s labour program, yesterday said that he believed CNRP support for unions as they enter into minimum wage negotiations this year could prove fruitful.
“If you look at the minimum wage increase background, we can see that without the involvement or pressure from CNRP, the minimum wage increased by very little,” Tola said, referring to the years before the 2013 elections.
“I can say that the victories with the minimum wage so far is partially because of CNRP involvement.”
Pointing to a government study which concluded that a living wage for workers was between $157 and $177, Tola said he agreed with Rainsy’s call for $180 per month, an attainable goal if unions stick together and demand the same amount.
“For me, if the unions . . . stand together for $170 or $180, I’m sure that they would reach their target,” Tola said, noting that during last year’s talks unions failed to reach a consensus.
“From the situation now, I’m concerned that unions are not united enough . . . That shows the division among the unions.”
At the same FTU meeting yesterday, union president Chea Mony announced his intention to retire. Mony said he was “very wrong” to have served as FTU’s president for 11 years, despite having a two-year mandate.