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Unions up wage demands

Garment factory workers protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last month
Garment factory workers protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last month, demanding an increase in minimum wages. Pha Lina

Unions up wage demands

Deposite not coming close to achieving their goal of a $160 monthly minimum garment wage, unions announced yesterday that they will raise their demands to $177 for 2015.

Ken Chhenglang, acting pres­ident of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC), said about 10 union representatives had last week reached an agreement to push for this figure in a meeting with employers scheduled for Friday.

“The groups of unions have got a positive result by [agreeing] to $177 for LAC [Labour Advisory Committee] negotiations,” she said.

With the minimum wage now at $100 and the government having used deadly violence in January to crush demands for further increases, Chhenglang conceded the new demand was ambitious.

“We know the government increases the minimum wage in very small amounts,” she said. “I won’t know what they are willing to go to until the tripartite meeting in October between the Ministry of Labour, unions and employers.”

Kong Athit, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said unions were prepared to ultimately accept less, without saying how low they would be willing to go.

“We do not want to see protests . . . but we will wait and see the situation,” he said.

According to a letter from the unions, $177 is an appropriate figure given the profits made in Cambodia’s billion-dollar industry and higher wages in neighbouring countries.

“Compare [Cambodia’s wage] to $237 in Thailand . . . between $74 and $219 in Indonesia, between $152 and $273 in Philippines and between $245 and $275 in Malaysia,” the letter reads.

Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, said $177 was unrealistic “for the same reasons as before when they were demanding $160”.

GMAC has said such a wage would place undue pressure on factory owners.

It was too soon to say what a realistic and fair increase would be, Loo added.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL

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