PHNOM PENH —
A cross-sector labor body responsible for setting the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector has unanimously voted to raise seamstresses’ salaries to $165 per month, the figure was bumped to $170 by Prime Minister Hun Sen to curry favor with potential voters ahead of next year’s general election.
Ith Samheng, the labor minister, told reporters after a meeting of the Labor Advisory Commission, comprising employers, government representatives, and unions, that the LAC had agreed to raise the minimum monthly wage by $12 from $153.
“Samdech Prime Minister [decided to add $5 more,” he said, using an honorific title for Hun Sen.
He added that workers would also receive additional bonuses, including payments for accommodation and travel, as well as “seniority” payments if they work the same job for more than two years.
The increase is the largest since 2013 when widespread strikes and protests led to violent clashes with security forces and at least five deaths.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC), told reporters that the relatively large wage rise was partly due to upcoming elections.
Employers have also been offered incentives, including the suspension of income tax payments for five years and an end to a commerce ministry tax.
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia, said the trade-off between higher wages and tax breaks was one the industry was content with.
“This means that when the minimum wage is increased, it will be difficult. But we want to clarify that we want to thank the government, Samdech Hun Sen, who thinks about employers and eliminated [the taxes],” he said.
Cambodia’s garment industry employs an estimated 700,000 people, mostly women, exporting about $6 billion of products in 2016.
Hun Sen, seeking to court the crucial voter block ahead of next year’s general election, launched weekly audiences with garment workers last month.