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Second round of garment wage talks ‘clear, professional’

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Garment workers stand in the back of a truck as they return home after work on National Road 3 in May. Heng Chivoan

Second round of garment wage talks ‘clear, professional’

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has set August 31 for continued discussions on the minimum wages of workers in textile-related sectors for 2023.

At their August 24 talks – the second – organised by the National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW), unions asked for a minimum wage of $215 for workers while employers suggested $194, the latter of which matches this year’s minimum wage.

The ministry hailed the meeting, saying both parties had presented their initial positions to each other clearly and professionally.

“The government also provided additional explanations on the points that drew questions from both sides. They have agreed to meet on August 31,” said a ministry statement.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, told The Post on August 24 that the preliminary result of the negotiations was the same as last year.

He said the government had not yet made a decision.

Based on the debates during the meeting, Thorn assumed that the minimum wage is likely to be higher in the future. He estimated that it may be around $197, which with an expected top-up by Prime Minister Hun Sen may jump to around $200 per month.

In 2021, the premier added $2 to the $192 proposed by the NCMW.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), told The Post that the association acknowledges the plight of workers, but the situation is unfavourable for both parties. He explained that while factory owners want to support workers’ livelihoods, they also need to remain competitive.

“Although exports in the first half of this year were good, we are very concerned about the export situation for the second half of this year, given the unstable global situation and the possibility of an economic downturn, mostly in the West, which is Cambodia’s main garment export market,” he said.

A new study by Ky Sereyvath, an economist and researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia who has researched the Kingdom’s minimum wage and its competitiveness, said Vietnam is now a strong competitor as its wages are lower. Cambodia’s rising costs of transportation and electricity could cause it to lose its competitive advantage, he said.

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