Cambodia raises garment wage by 28%, but unions say not enough
Friday, 14 November 2014 03:18
PHNOM PENH (Reuters): Cambodia on Wednesday raised the controversial monthly minimum wage for garment workers by 28%, a decision likely to infuriate unions seeking a higher increase and revive calls for strike action.
Cambodia deployed armed troops in the capital in September as garment workers held rallies to revive a campaign for higher wages that had helped to stoke a year-long political crisis.
Sixteen members of the Labour Ministryâ€™s Labour Advisory Committee voted for the Government-proposed minimum wage of $ 123, compared with the current wage of $100, which was later raised to $ 128, starting next year.
Independent unions were pushing for $140.
â€śI believe that workers will improve their living conditions, factories will be able to pay and production will increase,â€ť Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng told reporters. The growth of the garment sector has been a boon for the fledgling economy, providing as many as half a million jobs and generating $5 billion annually, but frequent protests by increasingly assertive unions, complaining about poor wages and bad conditions, have tested the governmentâ€™s patience.
At stake, if the campaign leads to prolonged strikes, is the possibility of reduced orders from firms that outsource to Cambodian factories, such as Gap, Nike, H & M Hennes & Mauritz and Zara, owned by Inditex.
Two unions, the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union and the Free Trade Union, said that they didnâ€™t agree with the new figure and will hold meetings with their members about what to do next.
Joel Preston, a consultant at labour rights group Community Legal Education Centre, denounced the pay rise.
â€śThere is going to be a really strong response from the unions and from the workers. This decision is completely unacceptable,â€ť he said.