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Labor Ministry Sets Schedule for Minimum Wage Talks

File photo: Over 300 workers mark International Workers' Day on May 1st, 2016 in Phnom Penh, under the thematic topic “Workers and Freedom of Unions,” to demand the government raising a worker's minimum wage, a better work condition and union's rights. ( Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

The Cambodian government on Monday announced a new round of talks over the status of the minimum wage in the garment sector, which currently stands at $140 per month.

The first round of talks will take place in August 2017, according to a statement from the Ministry of Labor, followed by further discussions in September of that year.

The following October, the ministry will take the results to a meeting of the Labor Advisory Committee to determine the next increase in the minimum wage, which will come into effect in January.

Labor leaders told VOA Khmer that unions would hold a meeting ahead of the talks, in July.

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said research was ongoing into conditions in the sector ad factory expenditure in order to come up with a figure the groups think is fair.

She added that the unions plan to lobby for a new minimum wage of $207 per month, a figure likely to be dismissed by employers and industry groups as too high.

The Ministry of Labor said factors such as the increasing cost of housing, inflation, and living expenses should be taken into account when determining the increase, as well as productivity and the profitability of the garment sector.

Workers have fought a long and hard battle to reach a minimum wage of $140, one which in January 2014 led to the deaths of at least five strikers at the hands of the security forces.

In May, factory owners told workers they needed “increase productivity” following the wage rise in order to stay ahead of their regional competitors in countries such as Bangladesh.

Almost half of Cambodia’s garments are exported to the European Union, with just under a third going to the United States. About a quarter are delivered to Canada and Japan.

In 2015, the country recorded more than $6 billion in revenue from the industry.