A Labour Ministry technical working group was set up yesterday to pave the way for discussions on the new minimum wage for 2018.
The working group is part of the ministry’s labour advisory committee chaired by Labour Minister Ith Samheng with representation from trade unions and garment industry employers.
Mr Samheng said after the meeting that the working group would have 16 members each from the ministry, unions and employers.
“The technical working group will start meeting from September 25 until they get a result that could be accepted by everyone,” he said.
Mr Samheng said it would be good if the working group could agree on a single minimum wage figure, or at least two figures that were close to each other.
If there were three potential figures, he would put them to the advisory committee to come up with a single figure, he said.
The technical working group would focus on two criteria to establish a figure, he added.
The first was social issues, covering the cost of living, inflation and living standards. The second was economic factors, taking in productivity, the country’s competitiveness, the labour market and profitability of the sectors.
Mr Samheng said the minimum wage for the garment and footwear industry would not be lower than $160 per month.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said yesterday the trade union group had not come up with a common figure because they were late in discussing it.
They would try to find a common figure to discuss with the technical working group, he added.
“For myself, I think around $200 per month for the workers’ minimum wage would provide decent living,” he said.
Mr Thorn said that after approval of the minimum wage, he would ask for discussions about benefits and other factors to boost incomes and improve the lives of workers.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia welcomed the establishment of the joint-working group.
But GMAC deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika raised concern that drastic rises in the minimum wage over the years was affecting the country’s competitiveness.
“We are very concerned that the industry’s profit margin is fast running too thin to be sustainable or to not make enough sense in terms of the appropriate rate of return on investment,” said Mr Monika, who was also at the ministry meeting yesterday.
He said employers had a strong view that the minimum wage should not go so high so quickly. Other industries were starting to feel the effect of this also because the garment industry wage had always been used as a benchmark, he added.
“The only way out is productivity, but this is easier said than done. It starts first with the mind-set,” he said.
The minimum wage of the garment textile and footwear industry this year is $153 per month.
Last month, at a meeting with more than 4,000 workers Prime Minister Hun Sen said the minimum wage would rise to at least $168 per month in 2018.
In January, health insurance will become the responsibility of factory employers, saving workers between $2 and $3 per month.