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Employers praise minimum wage negotiations, unions raise concerns

Labour minister Heng Sour (centre) poses with trade union and employer representatives following their negotiation and votes on the minimum wages for workers. MLVT
Labour minister Heng Sour (centre) poses with trade union and employer representatives following their negotiation and votes on the minimum wages for workers. MLVT

Employers praise minimum wage negotiations, unions raise concerns

Following the labour ministry’s announcement of a 2024 minimum wage set at $204 per month, the employers’ association has voiced their support, while trade union representatives and civil society organisations (CSOs) expressed their disappointment.

The entities endorsing the raise include the Cambodia Footwear Association (CFA), Labour Advisory Committee (LAC), Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC), and Cambodia Travel Goods and Leather Association (CTLA).

They highlighted that the minimum wage of $204, when combined with other benefits, will now result in workers receiving between $221 and $232.

They also emphasised the importance of Cambodia maintaining competitiveness to retain existing investors and attract new ones, ultimately leading to increased job opportunities, especially for young workers entering the labour market.

“We observe that negotiations on Cambodia’s annual minimum wage increase are consistent with socio-economic criteria, backed by official data and long-term planning. Our focus remains on preserving employment and investment as crucial income sources for workers. It’s noteworthy that no other country in the region has raised their minimum wage,” noted the employers’ association.

Simultaneously, they urged international buyers to place orders for Cambodian products while requesting the government to reduce costs across all aspects to maintain competitiveness and enable future wage increases for workers.

In contrast, trade union representatives and CSOs working on labour rights have expressed disappointment that workers will not receive a minimum wage of $213 as anticipated.

They asserted that during past tripartite negotiations, independent unions consistently presented arguments based on the seven criteria established by the labour ministry.

They highlighted that the National Council for Minimum Wage recognised the significant decline in workers’ real income due to escalating inflation, rendering their financial situation more challenging.

Ministry spokesperson Kata On told the press on September 30 that the $4 increase for 2024 from the previous wage of $200 was in response to the Prime Minister’s directive to finalise the decision before the commencement of Pchum Ben festivities.

“At present, there are over 830,000 garment workers. With the addition of $4 to the wage, employers would need to allocate more than $40 million annually. The agreed upon figure of $204 results from consensus among all stakeholders. We understand that we cannot demand arbitrary sums, especially if it places a burden on employers who may have financial constraints,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Fa Saly, the head of the so-called National Trade Union Confederation – which is not tied to the government – considers the raised figure to be relatively modest. However, some workers may not place significant emphasis on wage increases due to concerns about job stability.

“We acknowledge that excessive demands could potentially create an uncertain investment climate, and we value the importance of job opportunities. Additionally, it’s worth noting that within the Southeast Asian region, no country in the textile and garment sector has implemented a wage increase,” he said.


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