Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Minimum wage talks to begin in July

Minimum wage talks to begin in July

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng chairs the opening ceremony of a training seminar on minimum wage policy yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng chairs the opening ceremony of a training seminar on minimum wage policy yesterday in Phnom Penh. Facebook

Minimum wage talks to begin in July

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng announced yesterday that this year’s round of garment sector minimum wage negotiations would begin in July, with unionists cautiously optimistic that next year’s national elections could benefit their cause despite calls from Sam Heng not to “politicise” the process.

Speaking at the launch of a two-day wage policy training event, Sam Heng said the negotiations would begin with unions, employers and the Ministry of Labour internally settling on their own desired wage figures. The following month, in August, the ministry will hold bilateral meetings with unions and employers, before trilateral meetings between the parties commence in September. The final national minimum wage will be due in October, and implemented in January 2018.

Noting next year’s national elections, Sam Heng also made a point of telling politicians not to “make a topic” of the wage, thereby creating “unnecessary turmoil”.

Minimum wage protests in the wake of the 2013 national elections – which coincided with mass opposition demonstrations – were put down in January of 2014, when authorities fired into a crowd of rioting workers on Veng Sreng Boulevard, killing five. The opposition’s occupation of Freedom Park, while technically unrelated, was violently dispersed the following day.

In spite of Sam Heng’s admonition, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said he hoped political parties’ desire to curry favour would work in his favour.

“[Workers] will have more of a chance to receive the higher salary [as] each political party issues its policy to attract the support from garment factory workers,” he said, without naming the specific wage figure he would lobby for.

President of the government-aligned Cambodian Union Federation Chuon Mom Thol was also cautiously optimistic, though he did not expect wages to rise as much as last year – when Cambodia’s garment workers saw an almost 10 percent raise, from $140 to $153 a month.

But, he noted, “Samdech [Hun Sen] usually motivates the workers during the [election] time”.

Meanwhile, Khun Taro, of the labour rights group Solidarity Center, said he found the Labour Minister’s call to depoliticise wage discussions absurd, given that the ruling CPP’s annual wage raises were clearly designed to have political results.

Moeun Tola, of the labour rights group Central, agreed, pointing out that when the opposition CNRP campaigned in 2012 on the popular pledge of a $150 minimum wage for the private sector and a $250 minimum wage for civil servants, the government began adjusting both wages upward.

“Without political pressure there would be no wage increase,” said Tola. Both Taro and Tola expressed concerns that a draft minimum wage law proposed by the Ministry of Labour, with its proposals to forbid independent wage-related research and prohibit opposition to the minimum wage, would further politicise the question of wage raises by trampling free speech and curtailing the ability of independent unions to advocate for their members.

On June 7th, Rick Helfenbein, the CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which represents some of the largest American apparel brands, including Gap and Levi-Strauss, urged the draft law’s reconsideration. Like Taro and Tola, Helfenbein expressed concern that if enacted, it could add “significant challenges to an already difficult discussion”.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour dismissed these worries, adding that the draft law would not be adopted by the National Assembly until the end of the year.

Additional Reporting by Yon Sineat

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished