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Employers Want $144 Min. Wage

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Employers want workers to accept a $144 per month minimum wage. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Employers released their starting figure for the new minimum wage yesterday, saying in an open letter that they planned to enter tripartite negotiations with $144.20 per month as their goal for 2017.
In a letter from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) signed by secretary-general Ken Loo yesterday, they said they submitted their proposal to Labor Minister Ith Samheng on Tuesday after considering seven different points concerning the economic and social situation in the country.
“The new minimum wage rate should be set at no more than $144.20,” the letter said.
On Monday, unions decided to propose $179.60 per month as the new minimum wage for 2017 and submitted their request on Tuesday to the Labor Ministry ahead of trilateral negotiations on Friday.
Mr. Loo said GMAC’s figure was less than the rate of inflation – only about three percent – and was difficult to calculate because the textile and footwear sectors are going through a variety of changes in Cambodia. He added that the figure had to be accurate and carefully calculated to “ensure the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector.”
GMAC claimed they were concerned about the decline in the value of orders from buyers and brand owners, a decline in labor productivity, as well as an alarming decrease in exports and industry growth rates. The number of factories closing was greater than the number of them opening, they added.
Workers are in line to make an average of $200 per month because of other benefits – set in place by law – which forces employers to pay overtime and provide bonuses, GMAC said in their letter.
The minimum wage increased to $140 per month in 2016, which was $12 more than the $128 workers received the year before. When the wage hike was announced in October last year, some unions continued to protest for months, demanding at least $160.
But unions and workers scoffed at the most recent figure from GMAC, which is only four dollars more than the current minimum wage, and said they would keep their figure of almost $180 per month steady as they head into the first round of negotiations.
“Unions this year have a clear stance on a suitable wage, which is around $177 for workers in the garment and footwear sectors,” said president of the National Trade Union Confederation Fa Saly said. He added that contrary to most years, independent unions were united behind the common minimum wage figure.
Cambodian Alliance Trade Unions president Yang Sophorn was not surprised by the figure submitted by GMAC and said it was customary for them to start extremely low at the beginning of negotiations.
“We still hope that both the government and GMAC will be able to pay workers a better wage, and the figures unions have submitted of $179.60 is the lowest figure that employers can give their workers,” she said, adding that employers used the same tactics every year to justify paying workers low wages.
They always say the economic situation in the country is in dire straits, she said, and that too many factories were closing because of high wages. These are all attempts to obfuscate and deny workers a fair wage, she told Khmer Times yesterday.
The first tripartite negotiations on the minimum wage for workers in the garment, textile and footwear industries will begin on Friday. The next negotiation will be held on Monday, and a final one will take place on September 26.
The Labor Ministry announced in June that the Labor Advisory Committee will start meetings in October before making their decision on the new minimum wage, which will take effect on January 1.

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