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Council Approves Wage Bumps for Factory Workers

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Factory workers will earn a small increase in wages beginning in March, labor officials said Monday, following a meeting of representatives from government, factories and unions.

The Labor Advisory Committee, which arbitrates issues in Cambodia’s turbulent factory sector, approved an increase in bonuses from $5 to $7 a month if laborers do not miss a day of work.

It also approved a bump of $0.25 for meals in the case of overtime, and a “seniority” wage increase from $2 to $11 per month.

The increases come amid growing unease from workers, who say their pay has not kept up with the rising cost of living in Cambodia. New workers earn a base salary of $55 per month, while senior workers have typically earned $61 a month.

The committee approved an overall monthly salary increase of $5 in July 2010, but workers said it was not enough and have demanded an increase ever since.

Garment exports are main earner of foreign currency in Cambodia, alongside tourism. The sector employs more than 350,000 workers.

“It’s not at the level that pleases us,” At Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, referring to the wage bumps.

Workers need about $93 per month to live in suitable conditions, he said.

“We are not fully happy,” said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Free Trade Union workers have threatened to strike in recent weeks if wage increases were not forthcoming. He said Monday’s decision was made only to stave off the strike.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, which represents factories, said Monday’s decision was the outcome of months of negotiations between unions and factories.

“It’s a step going forward,” he said. The increases represent a large total sum for factories, he said, and managers will now be looking for increased productivity from satisfied workers.