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More Wage Negotiations Set, as Workers Maintain Demands

A Cambodian garment worker, foreground right, buys vegetable for her diner near a factory after the day's work, in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The government has released a schedule for minimum wage discussions with unions and factories this year, as workers continue to demand $177 per month to keep up with the rising cost of living. More talks are scheduled from July through January.

Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said workers are willing to protest to keep the pressure on factories and the government to reach $177, a figure agreed upon by a commission that included employers, government and unions in 2013.

“From our experience, when we have intervention from relevant people or do more protests, we see that we get more,” he said. “We would get less if we didn’t have these activities. If there is no pressure, the employers never want to increase a lot of pay.”

Cambodia’s garment and textile industry employs some 600,000 people and is a major driver of the country’s economy, but factory managers say they will be forced to close or move if the minimum wage isn’t competitive.

Major protests in late 2013 led to a severe government crackdown in January 2014, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more. That led to a minimum raise wage bump to $128 per month, but workers say that still is not enough.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, could not be reached for comment.

Heng Suor, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, told VOA Khmer the unions must be well prepared to make a case for an even higher wage. The ministry will not side with any one party, but will be seeking preparation, data and documents for upcoming talks, he said.

The Ministry of Labor has called for all sides to make accurate assessments of the sector, including the needs of workers, inflation and daily expenses, as well as its productivity and competitiveness in the market.