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More Negotiations Planned Ahead of Minimum Wage Decision

Garment workers shout during a protest calling for higher wages in Phnom Penh September 17, 2014.

Labor officials say they plan to put together an ad hoc group to discuss the contentious minimum wage for factory workers as they move toward a final decision next month.

Workers say they need $177 per month to keep up with the cost of living in the country, but factories say they can only pay $110 per month or be forced to seek other countries in which to set up shop.

The manufacturing industry is a major economic driver for Cambodia, employing an estimated 600,000 people.

The announcement Tuesday came after meetings between Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng and Ker Sovannaroath, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

“From Oct. 20, we will set up a special group composed of nine people from trade unions, nine from employers, and nine from the government,” Ker Sovannaroath told reporters after the meeting. The group will meet “regularly” to find agreement on the minimum wage, he said.

Unions have pushed hard for a wage increase since last year, and a recent report by the International Labor Organization warns of serious malnutrition in workers, who eat poorly and can faint on the job.

Major brands who source from Cambodia have meanwhile begun to push for fair conditions and wages for factory labor.

Ker Sovannaroath said the hope was to find a solution that all parties can agree on in November.