Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted on Sunday to house owners increasing the price of rent for garment workers and said that if they want to increases their prices they should come ask for the money from him.
Mr Hun Sen spoke to 4,600 representatives of workers from 53 factories in Kampong Speu province on Koh Pich.
With workers upset with the hikes, Mr Hun Sen ordered local authorities and relevant officials to investigate the issue.
“I have read comments on Facebook and found out the price of rental rooms has increased. We already asked all owners not to increase prices for workers when their minimum wage increases as well, but some owners increase it anyway,” Mr Hun Sen said.
The Prime Minister said owners plan to increase the price of rental houses by $8 per month for ground floor rooms and $5 for upstairs rooms.
“This case needs to be investigated. Let’s ask the owners how much they want and let them come ask for the money from me,” Mr Hun Sen said. “We already talked about this issue and I asked them not to increase the price for garment workers in 2018 when their minimum wage increases to $170 per month.”
The premier went on to say that if the owners want to increase rent, they should at least wait until 2019. “I want to know how the living standards of workers change when the minimum wage rises and they can spend money on water, electricity and healthcare – not simply on more expensive rent,” he said.
After Mr Hun Sen’s reaction on Sunday, the general management office for garment worker rental rooms in Por Senchey district issued a letter saying it had no plans to hike rent.
“Our plan to not increase the prices was made before the government appeal,”
a letter from the office said.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement Workers, requested relevant officials check the prices of rental houses along Vreng Sreng street in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district.
“If room and gasoline prices cannot be kept in check, the increase in workers’ wages in 2018 will not improve their living standards at all,” Mr Sina said.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said a $5 increase per room is not unreasonable considering workers usually share a room, so they should spend around $1 more per person.
“It is difficult to forbid house owners to do this, because they also want to improve their living standards. I myself agree with increasing the price by up to $5,” Mr Saly said.
However, Mr Saly also called on house owners to respect the worker’s capabilities and not increase the price over $5, adding they must respect the government’s will.
The price of renting a room for garment workers ranges between $30 and $40 per month. Their minimum wage is set to increase to $170 per month next year from the current wage of $153.