PHNOM PENH —
The government on Thursday increased the minimum wage for garment workers from $140 to $153 per month, concluding three months of negotiations with labor groups and industry representatives.
However, the figure fell far short of the $171 per month requested by unions.
The 28-member Labor Advisory Council met on Thursday afternoon to choose between the unions’ suggestion, the $147 proposed by employers, and the government’s recommendation of $148.
The council settled on the government’s figure, which was then increased by $5 per month by the intervention of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The new wage will come into effect in January 2017.
Following the closed-door vote, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said the decision struck a fair balance between the demands of workers and employers.
“I call on all to accept the proposal because it has become the norm and we all have to implement it and call for enterprises and establishments to implement it from January”, he said.
Nang Sothy, a representative of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association of Cambodia, said he hoped workers would be satisfied with the decision.
“I believe that with each year’s growth employers in the textile and footwear industries will be happy with it and next year we will increase it more,” he said.
However, union representatives were not as pleased, saying the rise was not in line with increases in living costs.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said that while his union would accept the decision, he could not speak for the country’s more than 600,000 garment workers.
“I think workers who want to protest will have some difficulties because recently we have seen restrictions from employers and the authorities,” he said.
Prior to violent garment strikes in 2013, which saw at least five people killed by government forces, the minimum wage was set at $100 per month.