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Unions to march over wage delay

Workers march through the streets of Phnom Penh in August
Workers march through the streets of Phnom Penh in August, calling for better working conditions and a higher minimum wage. Pha Lina

Unions to march over wage delay

Six garment unions will hold a march beginning in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Sunday to demand a higher industrial minimum wage, after the Ministry of Labour delayed a meeting about an increase, according to a letter obtained by the Post yesterday.

In the letter, sent to City Hall on Monday, presidents of the six unions said 3,000 people would gather at Freedom Park and then march to US and European embassies, followed by the offices of clothing brands.

“The negotiation on the 2015 minimum wage for garment workers has been delayed without setting a specific date,” the letter reads. “We hope the governor will allow us to use Freedom Park.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday that no decision has been made on whether the event will be allowed.

The Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) had originally planned to set next year’s industrial monthly minimum wage – which is currently $100 – on Friday. On Monday, the ministry delayed this meeting until next month.

Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng also said ministry officials would meet with unions other than the seven on the LAC during this time.

None of the presidents of the six unions that signed on to the letter are on the LAC.

“We know the employers have offered $110,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, and signatory to the letter. “But we need to negotiate for a better wage.”

Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union and a LAC member, said yesterday that he was not sure if his union would participate, but supports any effort to raise floor salaries.

Dave Welsh, country director of labour rights group Solidarity Center, said he didn’t think a postponement of the wage decision is a negative action in this case, but that he believes the government should not retaliate against unions for carrying out the rally in negotiations.

“There’s no reason for the government to react to that in a punitive way,” Welsh said.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

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