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Unions tout ‘living wage’ ahead of minimum wage talks

Union representatives attend a meeting in the capital on Friday to discuss the minimum wage. Photo supplied
Union representatives attend a meeting in the capital on Friday to discuss the minimum wage. Photo supplied

Unions tout ‘living wage’ ahead of minimum wage talks

Unions meeting on Friday arrived at an estimated cost-of-living salary for garment workers ahead of minimum wage talks, one remarkably similar to the monthly wage they’ve demanded two years running, though suggested the final number they push for will be higher.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said union leaders found workers spent an average of $124 and sent $47 home to their families each month. With an inflation rate of 3 per cent, the average worker’s expenses came to $176.

Independent unions pushed for a minimum wage of $177 in both 2014 and last year. The current wage stands at $140, with an added compulsory benefit of $17 per month, bringing it to $157.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said the wage should be higher than $176.

“Those findings are of actual expenses, so legally, their real wage must be more than this to ensure a decent standard of living,” he said.

But Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said cost of living was not the only consideration in determining a minimum wage – country competitiveness and the potential drop in employment needed to be considered. “We do not object to a minimum wage increase, but … a minimum wage increase alone, without a productivity increase, would kill the industry,” he said.

Labour rights advocate Mouen Tola said an independent study last year estimated a minimum wage of $208.

Tola said charges against several union leaders – which put them under court supervision and “serious pressure” – should also be dropped to ensure negotiations were fair.

The unions plan to meet again on August 19.

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