Garment workers earning the minimum wage will soon receive a $28 per month raise, but striking employees at a Phnom Penh factory, who earned more than the legal base pay, argue that they should receive a proportional salary hike.
Protests started on Thursday at Du Horse garment factory in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district. When the monthly minimum wage was $100 last year, the lowest paid employees at the factory earned $110. Therefore, strikers reasoned, management should continue paying workers $10 over the $128 minimum put into effect at the start of the year, said Mean Sophyreak, a Du Horse employee.
“For the new minimum wage, the government approved an additional $28 to our wages, so we should receive $138 per month,” said Mean Sophyreak, a member of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), which is leading the strike. “But the company announced they would cut $10 from our normal wage before the raise, so we refused.”
However, the approximately 2,000 workers participating in the strike may be selectively interpreting the Ministry of Labour decree in November that announced 2015’s wage hike.
The Labour Ministry’s Labour Advisory Committee initially voted in favour of a $123 base salary in Cambodia’s garment industry on November 12. But, the ministry ultimately added $5 to that, making the minimum $128. There was no mandate for an across-the-board $28 raise.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said yesterday he saw both sides of the issue.
“[A strike] is a little bit over-reactive,” Tola said yesterday. “For sure, I understand [that to] the worker who already gets $110 … and now gets $128 while [workers who earned $100] get $128, it’s not fair for you.”
Better collective-bargaining systems between unions and factory management could help avoid strikes such as this one, Tola said.
Negotiations are scheduled for today, C.CAWDU legal officer Seang Yoth said. Management at Du Horse and C.CAWDU officials will discuss the wage and other matters.
“We will meet with the employer tomorrow to negotiate the demand,” Yoth said yesterday.
Factory officials could not be reached yesterday.