The Ministry of Labour met with unions on Friday to gather input on a universal minimum wage law currently being drafted, union representatives and ministry officials confirmed yesterday. “The meeting is a forum for each party to review the draft and provide comments so the law can be more comprehensive,” the ministry said in a statement.
Unions are requesting that the ministry re-examine seven articles in the current draft law related to regional differences in the minimum wage and a hefty fine for organising to raise wages once a minimum wage has been determined, said Chhuon Momthol, head of the Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions.
“The meeting finished well. [The ministry] took our suggestions and will discuss them further,” Momthol said, adding that the ministry pledged to consult with relevant authorities about whether to adopt the unions’ recommendations.
The draft law aims to broaden the current minimum wage for garment and footwear workers to other sectors, but has been criticised by unionists and labour advocates who say it could restrict workers’ rights to free assembly and expression.
Following the meeting, Far Sally, president of the National Trade Union Coalition, said he was concerned the ministry was creating a universal minimum wage in order to stymie the ability of unions to bargain for higher wages. He also expressed concern that varying the minimum wage in different areas of the country could have adverse effects.
“We must have a national minimum wage,” Sally said. “For example, if the minimum wage is lower in a poor area, employers will move to open their businesses only in the poor areas.”
Meanwhile, William Conklin, country director at labour advocacy NGO Solidarity Center, said a higher minimum wage in urban areas could drive migration to the cities and complicate the enforcement of the wage.
“Having good statistics on cost of living needs to be a priority,” Conklin added. “If you said urban areas are significantly more expensive, then a higher minimum wage rate should be in effect there. But there needs to be empirical evidence.”
In a statement, the ministry pledged to review the unions’ suggestions with relevant experts. Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.