A growing chorus of labour advocates yesterday continued to condemn the government’s decision this week to set the minimum wage in the garment sector at $128 per month, even as many workers seemed ready to accept the new figure and one major factory played down the impact.
After the Ministry of Labour’s Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) initially proposed a $123 floor wage on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Hun Sen advised an extra $5.
In response, several international unions, including IndustriALL and the International Trade Union Confederation, released a joint statement dismissing the wage, which is $8 above Cambodia’s poverty line. Similarly, advocates such as the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) predicted it could lead to violent demonstrations like ones last year that left at least five people dead.
But on the factory floor, the story isn’t so simple. Although one man said yesterday he wanted $2 more than the new minimum, workers such as Sok Samnang actually welcomed it.
“I just received the information, which surprised me and made me very happy to have a higher wage; I agree to receive $128,” Samnang, a Wing Star Shoes employee, said yesterday, echoing the sentiments of four other workers who spoke to the Post. “I have no reason to join any protests to demand more”.
Unions had demanded the government raise salaries from the current $100 to $140. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, on the other hand, remained steadfast in its negotiating stance that factories could pay only $110.
Relatively unconcerned with the hike, which is to be implemented on January 1, Grand Twins International garment factory strategy manager David Liu said the company would study its financial impact. However, he added, buyers are likely to adjust prices.
The Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina said it seemed that about 70 to 80 per cent of his members were satisfied with the new wage, though a formal survey was still needed.
Other leaders weren’t so sure.
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) vice president Kong Athit said yesterday that his members are to vote today on whether to campaign against the new minimum salary.
“I don’t know exactly what [members] feel,” Athit said.