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Minimum wage for 2019 set to be decided

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Officials attend a meeting at the Ministry of Labour to discuss 2017 minimum wage. Hong Menea

Minimum wage for 2019 set to be decided

Garment and textile factory workers are set for an increase in the minimum wage for 2019. The Labour Advisory Committee will decide on Friday how much the figure will rise by after a trilateral meeting on Thursday failed to come to an agreement.

With no decision reached by the tripartite technical team involving the three relevant parties – the government, employers and unions – the matter will be referred to a Labour Advisory Committee meeting on Friday for a final decision.

Workers and employers are said to have tried to find a compromise, with labour representatives coming down slightly to a figure of $182 a month and employers increasing their proposal to $177.

The minimum wage is currently $170 a month.

Employers have also requested the government to lower the cost of electricity from $0.167 per kW/h to $ 0.12 per kW/h.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said that although there had been some adjustments, there was still a noticeable difference between the figures proposed by the two parties.

He said: “So even though there has been some adjustment, we still can see that there is a sizeable gap between what was proposed by the two parties. And [on Thursday] the employers offered only $177.”

The Labour Advisory Committee, he said, would be the final arbiter on the figures that the trilateral technical team had come to on Thursday.

“The Labour Advisory Committee will convene a meeting to decide on the result [on Friday]. So we expect to [then] have the official figure for the minimum wage for 2019,” he said.

“I think that the relevant parties, such as employees and unions are more mature now. And this mechanism has been in place for five years. We see the negotiations going smoothly,” Heng Sour said.

Before requesting $182 a month, the group of unions, consisting of 16 members, had voted internally to come to a figure for the increase, with some members proposing $189 and some $182.

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Unions president, Ath Thon, said during the union negotiations, $189 a month was demanded, but because some unions “held political tendencies and were not wholly independent”, they called for a lower figure.

“Some Cambodian unions are independent, while some are not because they have political tendencies and are influenced by the employers. So they don’t have one voice for the workers,” Thon said.

With difficulties in coming to an agreement on the figure to be put forward – either $182 or $189 a month – the decision was put to a vote. The $182 a month figure received 10 votes while $189 got two votes. There were three abstentions.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika said it was troubling for investors, in general, whenever there were minimum wage negotiations as employers were always worried about potentially high figures demanded by unions.

“We have proposed $177 as the minimum wage for 2019. We have also asked the government to lower electricity costs by four cents. Whatever the decision is [on Friday], the Labour Advisory Committee will decide the figure.

“I think $177 is correct. We have high expectations that the final figure will be $177 because it is the most practical,” Monika said

Thon said: “Over the past three or four years, the employers have increased the workers’ workload [so] there is little satisfaction even with [an increase to $182 or $189 a month].

“It is very little because our workers face difficult conditions. Expenses are high and there are a lot of cases of fainting and they have a lot of responsibilities. So when their wages are low, they face difficulties.”

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