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Minister denies risks with wages

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Labour Minister Ith Samheng. KT/Mai Vireak

Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday confronted fears that the new minimum wage for garment workers could lead to lower wages for others.

Speaking at a minimum wage draft law meeting at the Phnom Penh Hotel, Mr Samheng said: “Don’t be confused about other sectors. The law mentions the minimum wage. It does not mean that other sectors will have lower wages after the garment sector wage is agreed on.” he said.

“If employers give wages equal to or more than the minimum wage, that’s OK, but if the employers pay less than the minimum wage, they will face fines,” he added.

He said the minimum wage now covers only the garment and footwear sector. Later, the ministry would bring in minimum wages for other sectors.

“I would like to confirm that manufacturing and other similar sectors will also have minimum wages,” he said.

He said that the minimum wage draft law will benefit the labour sector, and called for all sides to discuss the draft law.

National Trade Union Coalition president Far Sally said some unions did not favour their lack of rights to research workers’ livelihoods in the draft process.

Groups review the minimum wage draft law yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

“We are not economists. We are only unions. So, when we want to know about workers’ livelihoods we must depend on another partner or economist,” he said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said the minimum wage draft law seemed to give rights only to the minimum wage council group.

“For example, my union is not a member of the minimum wage council, so my union has no right to research workers’ livelihoods,” he said. “I think that the new minimum wage draft law seems to restrict union rights.”

Mr Samheng said that from 1997 to 2017, the government had aimed to increase the minimum wage in the garment sector from $30 dollars per month to $153.

In a separate development, the International Labour Organisation has noted Cambodia’s progress in the garment industry minimum wage determination.

The ILO country office for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos said they welcomed the wage increase, but suggested expanding it to include other sectors.

Several amendments could also be made to the draft law, such as clear coordination with the 1997 Labour Code, as several provisions had different wordings and some provisions restricted freedom of expression and debate of the issue.

The ILO stated these elements risked undermining the effectiveness and transparency of the legislation.

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