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Union proposes minimum wage of $223 a month

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Cambodian Labour Confederation President Ath Thorn speaks at a workshop about the minimum wage yesterday in Phnom Penh. Yon Sineat

Union proposes minimum wage of $223 a month

A group of unionists yesterday proposed $223.84 per month as an adequate minimum wage for the garment and footwear sector, based on a survey of 300 workers.

The figure, some $70 higher than the sector’s current mandated minimum salary, was unveiled during a workshop organised by the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) and attended by several other unions.

The study, which assessed living expenses for 300 workers from 30 factories in and around Phnom Penh, calculated average monthly food costs at $82, and non-food items – such as rent, utilities and health care bills – at $113. Added to this was $28.84 to cover the cost of inflation and account for productivity increases.

The group’s research is designed to inform their submission to the 2018 minimum wage negotiations.

CLC President Ath Thorn said the workshop was designed as a forum to discuss the figure with other unions on the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC), the government’s wage setting group, to seek their approval.

“If they agree with this number, we’ll submit that number to negotiate within the LAC,” Thorn said.

Chheng Dano, vice president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, said she backed the study. “I support the number found from the research and I ask other unions to please support that number too,’’ she said.

A contentious issue seized upon by the opposition party during the 2013 national election, the minimum wage, which currently only applies to the garment and footwear sector, has made steady increases in recent years after the government introduced a formal negotiation process in 2014.

The last round of negotiations saw the wage increase from $140 to $153 per month, a boost that fell below unions’ demands of at least $171.

Though the next round of negotiations are yet to begin, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday proposed increasing the figure to $168, an announcement which prompted questions about whether the raise had been decided in advance.

While calling the suggested $15 “some progress”, Thorn said he hoped this wasn’t the case. “We still hope we’ll be able to negotiate at the LAC,” he said, adding that if the government failed to satisfy workers, protests and unrest may result.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia Secretary-General Ken Loo said the proposed $223 figure was not sustainable.

“Cost of living is only one factor among seven that it’s agreed the minimum wage will be based on,” Loo said.

“We have to look at all seven factors; there are three social factors, including cost of living and inflation, but there are four economic factors, including competiveness, the cost of doing business, etc.”

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