Unions: Change Minimum Wage Law

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
An earlier meeting held to discuss the minimum wage. KT/Chor Sokunthea

More than 40 unions have joined together to ask the Labor Ministry to make changes to 10 articles in the draft Minimum Wage Law, saying the law did not cover all sectors and restricted the rights of union representatives in wage negotiations among a host of other issues. 
More than 50 members from the 40 unions, along with international civil society organizations, met yesterday to discuss the law and review its six chapters and 33 articles.
Fa Saly, the president of the National Trade Union Confederation, said during the meeting that unions planned to ask the Labor Ministry to make changes to the law during a meeting on Friday.
He added that the union had 10 major things they wanted changed or added to the law, including the creation of an independent institution to research wages, the coverage of both domestic and factory workers in every sector and the inclusion of societal statistics and anecdotal information in the calculation of the minimum wage. 
“The point that we will strongly discuss is article 9, which says that the minimum wage may vary by region or economy,” he said. 
“We cannot accept this because if the minimum wage varies by region, investors will see the opportunity and only invest in areas that are far away.
“It will affect the national minimum wage negotiations, which may decrease from $153 to $120.”
Unions also plan to ask the ministry to remove article 28 of the law, which lays out punishment for individuals or organizations that do research on wages in the country. 
The law says that only the National Council for Wages has the right to study wages in Cambodia and anyone found doing their own investigation will be fined 10 million riel (about $2,500).
“It’s a terrible thing that is unacceptable for the country and the wage law should not have made it because it is similar to the union law, which restricts the freedom of unions,” he said. 
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, echoed Mr. Saly’s concerns and said parts of the law were expressly written to “deprive the rights of workers or union representatives.”
“We have asked the ministry to consider [our complaints] and correct those points,” he said, adding that there were positive parts of the law and that he was heartened to see the government making some level of effort to set the minimum wage instead of allowing the private sector to dictate the wage figure.
The meeting on Friday – with representatives from the government, unions and employers – will discuss the content of the draft law and any concerns people have.
In January, the ministry will hold a public workshop on the draft law. The law will then be sent to the Inter-Ministerial Task Force for review and a final decision. 
The law has been heavily criticized by unions and civil society organizations since it was unveiled at a tripartite meeting late last month. 
After the meeting, Mr. Saly was particularly incensed with the article detailing punishments for those who protested against any wage set by the government, telling Khmer Times that parts of the law “seem to force acceptance of the minimum wage.” 

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