Unions, employers and the government have agreed to increase the minimum wage of textile and footwear factory workers by $8 next year, despite some workers saying that the bump is not enough to improve their living standards.
Workers will receive $190 starting in January. The current minimum wage is $182.
The decision was made by the three sides during a final meeting on the minimum wage on Friday.
The Labour Ministry said after the meeting that the National Committee for Minimum Wage determined $187 as the minimum wage, and Prime Minister Hun Sen then decided to add $3.
The ministry said workers will still receive other fringe benefits, including an extra $10 per month for regular attendance and an extra $7 per month for transportation and rent.
“As long as we discuss and figure out to get joint a result like this, I’m sure that our country will keep developing and people will enjoy all the prosperity in the Kingdom,” Labour Minister Ith Samheng said.
Mr Samheng noted that while Cambodia offers a minimum wage of about $190, Vietnam only offers $120, while Indonesia and Laos offer $110.
The $3 added by Mr Hun Sen is lower than previous bumps. In the past few years, it has become the norm for Mr Hun Sen to add $5 after the final agreed-upon figure is reached.
However, the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia recently asked the government to refrain from increasing the agreed-upon wage by $5 because it reduces the industry’s competitiveness due to the added financial burden on employers.
GMAC representative Nang Sothy told reporters after the final meeting that the new minimum wage was acceptable.
“Employers are happy to accept the figure because it’s based on the rules we agreed on,” Mr Sothy said. “For some other requests, unions and employers will discuss with the government later. We also urge the government to make it [increasing productivity] more convenient for employers.”
He noted that the government should continue to reduce the number of public holidays to increase competitiveness among countries in the region.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, yesterday said he is not satisfied with the pay bump because the garment and textile industry has the potential to make billions of dollars in profit.
“If we look at the economy, Cambodia still has the export potential of up to $10 billion, and competitiveness is also high,” Mr Thorn said, noting that productivity in the Kingdom is up 12.2 percent.
He said the pay bump should have been more than $8 due to unfavourable social and economic conditions. Mr Thorn said because of the government’s decision to cut public holiday next year, garment and textile factory workers will have reduced bonuses.
Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, on Friday said he welcomes the increase and hopes that the ministry will consider improving working conditions by implementing 14 requests it submitted to the government.
These requests include free or affordable meals, safer transportation, and an increase in the minimum wages of those in the sectors of tourism, service and construction.
The minimum wage for garment and textile factory workers annually increase, but some factory workers argue that economic and social conditions prevent them from actually benefiting from the annual pay bumps.
Kong Sopheap, a worker with W&D garment factory in Phnom Penh, yesterday said she accepts the $8 increase, but the amount will not improve livelihoods.
“I accept this number, but it can’t help my living standard and daily spending,” Ms Sopheap said, noting that minimum wage in the Kingdom should be $200 per month. “It would be really good for us. We would be able to save money for our future.”
“We are concerned that as wages increase, so will rent, food and others,” she added, noting that food vendors and landlords tend to increase prices after learning about the pay bumps. “Rent increases $5 per year, and food also increased from 1,500 to 2,000 riels [$.50] per meal. I want the government to take action and prevent these increases.”
Saing Chanry, a garment factory worker, yesterday said that the minimum wage should ideally sit above $200 due to economic conditions.
“I think $190 per month is still too low to improve our living standard,” Ms Chanry said. “Food, power and water are still expensive.”