PHNOM PENH, 27 September, (Khmer Times) – The Tripartite Labor Advisory Council (LAC) met yesterday at the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to seek a resolution to garment workers’ claims for a minimum monthly salary of $177.
Representatives from the government, labor unions and garment factory owners emerged from the meeting with no agreement in sight, to the disappointment of approximately 30 garment workers, who had assembled
Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng, expressed confidence, however, that a final decision on the issue would be reached by October 10th.
The secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, Ken Loo, also felt that an agreement was achievable by the October date, as all parties were keen to avoid an ongoing deadlock.
The unions say that $177 is a realistic amount and are buoyed by recent support from large international fashion buyers, who have written to the government stating that they would be prepared to pay more for Cambodian products in return for stability in the industry and continuity of supply. The unions seem prepared to negotiate however, in an effort to move the matter forward.
The employers, in turn, believe that the industry would be hard pressed to afford a deal above $110 per month.
For its part, the government is reportedly concerned about maintaining Cambodia’s competitiveness with neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar which all have garment workers’ wages pegged significantly below the $177 threshold.
The president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), Ath Thom, said that because the employers and workers could not reach an agreement, they had turned to the government to help set the minimum wage.
The Minister added that although the government would prefer to achieve a result through consensus, if no agreement could be reached, they would proceed by secret ballot and set a wage figure that reflected the most support from the members of the LAC.