Factories in Cambodia’s garment industry say they need more productivity out of workers if they are to survive a new wage hike.
Earlier this month, the government agreed to raise minimum wage to $140 per month, a figure managers said would damage the industry.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said now factories must focus on increased productivity to remain economically viable.
The wage hike was negotiated to $135 through arbitration, and raised another $5 by edict from Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party traditionally has not had the vote of factory workers.
Union leaders say the raise is too small, regardless, and won’t contribute to increased productivity.
With a low salary, laborers “work a lot and feel hopeless, because all they get is an illness after they work for a long time,” said Ath Thon, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation. “They owe money to other people, and some receive short job contracts, which the employers are using. None of these factors inspire them to learn new skills or concentrate on their jobs.”
Added to that are poor treatment of workers and old equipment, which is not productive, he said.
Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, agreed. Factory managers or team leaders, not laborers, are the main forces for increasing productivity, she said.
She blamed employers for not improving the working environment in factories, which can lead to mass faintings. Factories typically increase pressure on workers with higher targets following wage hikes, she added.
Both union leaders said the wage hike won’t be enough, and workers will still need more benefits to earn a decent living.
Meanwhile, in a public speech earlier this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen told a graduating class that Cambodia’s minimum wage remains higher than those in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Laos, which pay their workers, respectively, $67, $75 and $80 a month.