Union Leaders Still Aim for Big Minimum Wage Increase

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Workers at the Y&W Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district on March 3, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)

Ahead of minimum wage negotiations on Tuesday, union leaders say they are still aiming for a $21 increase for garment workers, though employers are lobbying for no increase in part due to regional competition.

Union leaders, employers and representatives from the Labor Ministry are due to meet on September 13 before a final vote on September 21 that will pick next year’s minimum wage. This year’s minimum wage is $194.

“We still want a big increase in the minimum wage as appropriate to help workers’ livelihoods as inflation keeps rising. But I know the employers do not want that,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation.

Thorn said the minimum wage for garment workers should be increased to $213, citing a study by the CLC and Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union that the average factory worker needs close to $300 per month to pay for food, housing and other living expenses. Overtime can increase monthly wages to around $289, they say.

However, Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the minimum wage is influenced by more than just inflation for workers.

“I think we cannot increase the minimum wage to $213 as they demand, because this is far more than garment workers in Vietnam,” he said.

GMAC says Cambodia’s minimum wage is higher than Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Laos, Myanmar, India, Vietnam and Pakistan. It also cites decreased exports to Europe, and argues the minimum wage is sufficient for workers’ expenses.

“The current minimum wage is higher than the expense of two people per month. If they live in Phnom Penh, they spend around $173.6, and $151.7 if they live in [other] urban areas,” GMAC says.

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