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Unions Prepare Workers To Protest Over Minimum Wage

A Cambodian garment worker speaks on a loud speaker as she leads a strike in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, file photo.

Eight separate unions say they are prepared to lead a short protest on Wednesday, as the government, factory managers and labor leaders meet over the minimum wage.

Protesting workers say they need around $177 a month as a minimum wage to keep up with the increased cost of living in Cambodia, a bump from the $160 per month initially suggested by some union leaders.

Wednesday’s strikes—brief, one-hour gatherings at noon and 5 pm—could affect 300 factories following Pchum Ben, the annual ceremony to honor the dead, organizers say.

“We will gather many thousands of workers to protest after Pchum Ben,” Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said.

Workers have been calling for a raise in the minimum wage for years, but those demands built into major strikes in December 2013, leading to a deadly government crackdown in January.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents owners, says factories can only afford to pay $110 per month before being forced to relocate to cheaper countries.

Garments and textile manufacturing are a major economic driver for Cambodia, employing an estimated 600,000 people.

The Ministry of Labor is expected to make a decision on the minimum wage in October.