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Factories Say They Can’t Raise Wages, as Workers Prepare To Strike

Cambodian garment workers buy some cheap food for their lunch in front of the factory in downtown Phnom Penh, file photo.

Union leaders say they are prepared to call a strike in Cambodia’s garment sector, as an organization of manufacturers says most of its members are unwilling to raise wages.

Workers say they need at least $177 per month to maintain a standard of living, but members of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia say they cannot afford to pay more than the $128 per month minimum wage.

Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labor Federation, told VOA Khmer that factory managers are typically unwilling to raise wages in the sector, which employs up to 600,000 people and is Cambodia’s main economic driver.

“If the employers don’t increase wages at all…a protest of workers will take place,” he said. Major protests in late 2013 and early 2014 led to a violent crackdown by government security forces, leaving at least five people dead.

Ath Thorn said the unions are continuing to ask for $177, though research into the cost of living is already under way and should be out in August. The results will be submitted to the Ministry of Labor and GMAC then, he said.

The Cambodia Daily reported Wednesday that GMAC had surveyed its members, and 63 percent said they would not be willing to raise wages further.

Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said demonstrations and strikes are the last option for workers, and negotiations with factories must be held first.

“If we don’t receive positive result from the talks, or the increase is very small and can’t be accepted, we will have a meeting with our members in the enterprises and factories where our members work,” she said. “Thus, we will continue to discuss to find a strategy. But if we don’t [have] any option, we will go the route of staging strikes and demonstrations.”