PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Union leaders and employers attended a closed-door meeting at Phnom Penh Hotel yesterday to discuss their findings on labor conditions in the lead-up to official talks on a new minimum wage for the textile and footwear industry.
“The meeting this morning is just a session for a presentation of findings from the Ministry of Labor and the International Labor Organization (ILO) and [a presentation on the] data that we [labor unions] get,” Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, said said. “It is not a request or negotiation about the minimum wage yet. Labor unions will propose the minimum wage on September 11 and the official negotiations will be on September 22. The meeting is just about the indicators and the reason for the wage increase,” he said at the National Tripartite Workshop on the Minimum Wage.
The textile and footwear sectors employ about 700,000 Cambodians.
Unions have so far kept their position, demanding a minimum wage between $150 and $177 a month in accordance with the current core living costs. Currently, the minimum wage is $128, which was agreed in January. This was brought up from $100, which was established in February last year.
“In the process of determining the minimum, we also will study competition with the countries in the region,” said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the government-aligned Cambodian Union Federation.
“As a labor union, we also look at the competition in the region and productivity. Our productivity is not different from Vietnam. Cambodia is 2.2 percent, while Vietnam is 3 percent.
“We limit the minimum wage depending on the economic status. Our economic growth in 2016 will be about 4 percent and the inflation is around 4 percent. We don’t want much but just an appropriate amount to cover inflation,” he said.
Last month, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) issued a report pointing to less productivity and increasing wages as the cause for the loss of manufacturing business to other Southeast Asian countries.
Ith Samheng, Minister of Labor, brushed off GMAC’s report, saying: “When talking about the minimum wage agreement, the parties always have, and defend, their positions. With the current wage, we are not too low and too high. We are still better than Myanmar and Laos. And but we are still behind Vietnam and Thailand. We need to negotiate and negotiate until there is less and less difference between the parties.”
He added the negotiations on wages must end in October or early November and the wage must be implemented by January 1.
Vann So Eang, president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Association, stressed the price of necessities was a significant indicator for detreming the minimum wage. “The minimum wage must reflect the reality of the market,” he said.
Mr. Samheng also defended the union law that will be implemented soon.
The draft legislation has been widely criticized for restricting freedom of expression among the workers attempting to demand more rights and better working conditions.
Mr. Sambath who holds first place in English Proficiency test for three consecutive years at IFL. KT Photo: Keo Theasrun