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Union Leaders Announce Minimum Wage Demands

Cambodian garment workers work inside a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, file photo.

About 700,000 Cambodians, mostly women, are employed in the textile industry.

Union leaders have announced the latest demand for increased wages in the garment sector as just under $180 per month.

The current minimum wage workers receive is $140. In a letter from union leaders to the Ministry of Labor, they said the figure of $179.60 was arrived at because rising prices meant that the current rate was not enough to support a decent living standard.

Employers issued a warning to workers to abide by the law if they planned to hold demonstrations in support of higher wages. In 2014, at least five people were killed when the security forces opened fire on striking garment workers.

Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said the union demands were fair and affordable.

“The employers always complain like that. They never say they want to give more to workers, although workers are struggling to work without motivation to produce for this industry,” he said.

Ken Loo, secretary general o the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the demands were “excessive”.

“Actually, the salary of workers is more than that. It’s not with just only the amount of the minimum wage. Thus, if the union asked to increase by 30 percent at one time, no countries in the world can afford that,” he said.

Heng Sour, a labor ministry spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

About 700,000 Cambodians, mostly women, are employed in the textile industry. Almost half of Cambodia’s garment exports go to the European Union, while just under a third go to the United States.

Last year, the sector brought in more than $6 billion, according to the Workers’ Information Center.

Negotiations over the minimum wage are due to be held on Friday.