Minimum Wage Raised But Demands Unmet

The decision should not have been based on a vote but on a real study on cost of living.

This will only prolong the unresolved demands of the workers who know what is the real minimum wage.

Cambodia has raised the minimum monthly wage for garment workers by 28 per cent to US$128, effective Jan 1 next year, but the increase fell short of union demands.

Cambodian garment workers walk in front of a factory in Phnom Penh on Nov 12, 2014. The Cambodian government has raised the minimum wage for its garment workers by 28%, following a series of strikes. (Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia raised the minimum monthly wage for garment workers to US$128 on Wednesday (Nov 12) after a series of strikes and protests over pay and conditions, but the hike fell short of union demands.

The 28 per cent raise for employees who currently earn a minimum of US$100 a month to make clothes for firms including GAP, Levi’s, H&M, Puma and ZARA will take effect on Jan 1, 2015, the Labour Ministry said.

“I believe that workers will improve their living standards from previous years and that factories will be able to pay the wage,” Labour Minister Ith Samheng told reporters in Phnom Penh after a meeting between government officials, unionists and factory representatives. But garment workers and trade unionists – who have campaigned for international buyers to lift their basic wage – said the hike was too small.

“We are not satisfied with the figure yet. The increase is still low. We want at least US$140 a month,” Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, told AFP. Unionists and workers will meet in the coming days to decide whether to accept the increase or continue their campaign for higher wages, he added.

Earlier, the union had demanded a minimum monthly wage of US$177 but reduced the figure after negotiations with the government and factories.

Cambodia’s garment sector, a key source of export earnings, has been hit by a series of strikes and protests over wages and working conditions in factories producing items for top Western brands. Disputes over wages, safety and conditions in Cambodia’s lucrative garment industry are frequent and sometimes turn violent. A crackdown on striking garment workers in early January left at least four people dead.

Garment worker Prum Savy, 28, who works in one of the hundreds of factories on the outskirts of the capital, told AFP she was willing to join further protests for a better wage hike. “I am happy with the increase, but this is not enough. I want more,” she said.

The multi-billion dollar garment industry employs about 650,000 people in Cambodia and is a key source of foreign income for the impoverished country. The kingdom earned around US$5.5 billion in garment exports last year.

A month after the mass strike and subsequent bloody crackdown in January, the minimum wage was increased from US$95 to US$100 per month. At least six union leaders face charges in connection with that strike, according to rights activists.

The new monthly wage applies to textile, garment and footwear workers who will still receive benefits including an extra US$10 per month for regular attendance and an extra US$7 per month for transportation and rent, according to the Labour Ministry.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with around 20 per cent of the population – or 2.8 million people – living on less than US$1.25 per person per day, according to the World Bank.


2 responses to “Minimum Wage Raised But Demands Unmet

  1. Pingback: Disappointing $ 128. | Living in SouthEast Asia.

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