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Union wage vote split

Garment workers march towards the National Assembly building during a protest earlier this month
Garment workers march towards the National Assembly building during a protest earlier this month, calling for a living wage. Pha Lina

Union wage vote split

Rather than reaching a consensus on next year’s minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector as they were instructed, a tripartite working group is to file two suggestions for the wage to the Ministry of Labour, neither supported by unions.

At a meeting last night of the 27-person panel – nine representatives each from unions, employers and the government – nine people voted for the government-supported monthly floor salary of $121 and nine voted for the employer-supported $110.

The $140 mark backed by most unions, however, will not be presented to the Labour Ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) at all after garnering just seven votes.

Working group members agreed at the beginning that the salary with the most votes would be submitted, Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said, but since two people abstained, the $140 option was left off the table.

“When the result was released, I was really shocked that two unions did not vote to support the number that we agreed,” Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said, suspecting that members of the union group abstained. “It means they did not support the workers.”

Made up of seven representatives of unions and employers and 14 from the government, the LAC will decide the salary.

The poll was taken in a secret ballot, but Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union vice president Kong Athit said it was obvious who abstained, but declined to name his suspects.

Athit remains optimistic that the LAC may favour a monthly salary above $121, he said.

“LAC needs to decide in a very focused way,” Athit said.

A report of the results will be handed to Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng today, Sour said. The LAC will likely begin meeting after the Water Festival.

Although Sina warned a salary of $121 will spark strikes, Sour said when benefits are included, the salary is the same as if workers received $140.

“It means the final number that the worker really puts in their pocket is $121,” Sour said. “The government is implementing the health insurance . . . and the tax abstention.”

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