The third mandate of the National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) held an August 16 meeting to discuss the minimum wage for workers in the textile, garment, footwear and travel goods sector.

According to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, six more meetings are scheduled, with the official figure to be determined by October 2, immediately before the Pchum Ben holiday period.

Ith Samheng, the labour minister and chair of the NCMW, told reporters after the meeting that this year’s discussions had been delayed due to the July 23 general election.

“Today’s discussion was attended by all three parties – the ministry, manufacturers’ associations and workers’ representatives – to listen to presentations on data related to the seven economic and social criteria for setting the 2024 minimum wage. This input will allow all stakeholders to consider their respective positions,” he said.

He added that none of the parties have determined any specific figures, and no specific increase had been discussed, as there were many aspects to consider.

Nang Sothy, deputy chief representative of the Employers’ Professional Organisation for the third mandate of the NCMW, said more than 10 factories have closed and over 20,000 workers have lost their jobs due to the global economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions. But he noted that discussions would continue until a mutually agreed minimum wage was set.

“I believe that the maturity of all three parties, who have been through these minimum wage talks for years, the process should be simple. We are also waiting to see if the new prime minister decides to add to the agreed total, as Prime Minister Hun Sen used to do. We will all support the government’s decisions,” he added.

Cambodian Footwear Association president Ly Khun Thai said that orders had decreased sharply this year in the garment, footwear and travel goods sectors, so there should be no further wage increases. He opined that the current wage should remain in effect.

“I think that because orders have been declining this year, there should be no further wage increases. We are afraid an increase will affect new investments, as our current wage is already high enough when compared with Vietnam and Bangladesh. Once the economic situation is better and purchase orders have returned to normal, we will support an increase,” he explained.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) who also attended the meeting, said each party will discuss their ideal outcomes.

“There will be six more meetings. I think we still have the opportunity to increase the wage, as the Kingdom still has the potential for more exports. The cost of services such as the National Social Security Fund [NSSF] remains low, and our wages are not really the highest in the region. It is true that there has been a decline in exports in the past two months, but they have not been that bad,” he said.

“One of the most difficult things is that employers will claim that they cannot increase the wage because there is less work. The union still believes that there will be an appropriate minimum wage increase for our workers,” he added.

According to an August 16 NCMW statement, the next meeting will be held on August 28, with September 4, 11, 18 and 25 meetings planned before the final one on October 2.