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Netizens calling for wages of over $200

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Garment workers leave their workplace at Russey Keo district in Phnom Penh recently. Hong Menea

Netizens calling for wages of over $200

A number of union members and factory workers have posted messages on social media expressing their desire for a new monthly minimum wage of more than $200, with the National Council for Minimum Wage (NCMW) in negotiations.

On September 13, the NCMW, comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, unions and employers, met for the fourth time in a three-way meeting.

The final talks and the official announcement on the minimum wage for the garment sector are set for September 23.

A number of messages posted by workers and union members on social media showed their required wage, with groups and individuals holding banners calling for a minimum wage of $215, while others requested $210.

“We are asking for a minimum wage of $210 per month in 2023 for improving family living and society” and “garment workers need $215 as a base wage for 2023” some of the posts said.

Cambodia Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn told The Post on September 13 that many factory workers, including union members, had done so to demonstrate their need for a fair wage increase.

He said the representatives of unions participating in the talks would continue negotiations.

“Negotiations will continue for a figure above [$213]. As for the unions’ and workers’ demands, they are merely asking employers and the government to provide what is appropriate,” Thorn said.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina told The Post that the workers’ messages were only expressing the need for a fair wage in response to market conditions and the cost of living.

At the third meeting of the NMWC on August 31, the representatives of employees reduced their figure from $215 to $213, and employers’ representatives increased theirs from $194 to $196, while the NMWC figure for negotiation was $197.86.

Kem Tith Sophy, head of the garment department at JIE WEI (Cambodia) Garment Factory, said meetings on increasing the wage had been held several times and she remained optimistic for a decent figure for 2023.

“Last year we demanded $200, but due to Covid-19, we accepted $194. But if the wage increased this time to only $197, then we would complain because prices across goods are increasing, in addition to there now being a deduction for the pension fund too,” she said.

Oun Vanna, 34, a garment worker for more than 10 years at the Simil Cambo Co garment factory, said that while factory workers’ wages were increasing, so too were the prices of goods.

“It’s about a $2 increase if compared to previous prices. All kinds of goods have gone up a lot in price, even though the real wage hasn’t increased. Home rentals have increased about $5, for example.

“We could maybe have supported ourselves if the wage in 2023 were to be $197.86 had the cost of living not increased so much,” she said.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment on September 13.

However, he previously told The Post that the meetings were an opportunity for both sides – the representatives of employers and those of workers – to present their studies and arguments on the seven criteria for determining the minimum wage.

In 2021, after the NCMW decided to propose a figure of $192 to be implemented in 2022, Prime Minister Hun Sen added $2 for a total of $194 per month.

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