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Cambodian Factory Owners Resist Living Wage for 300,000 Workers

Despite assurance that talks are “moving positively,” negotiations between owners of Cambodian garment factories and industry unions have failed to meet their goal–to establish a new (as in higher) minimum wage for Cambodia’s 300,000 factory workers.

Currently, Cambodia’s minimum pay converts to $61 per month–one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia. Though the cost of living is extremely low in Cambodia, the 2009 Cambodia Institute of Development Study (CIDS) found that a minimum living wage would total $90–largely because of the scarcity of jobs, which means that most garment workers support entire households with their wages.

After four rounds of negotiations, factory owners have proposed a wage increase of $11 per month, which would bring the minimum wage up to $72–still far short of the $90 proposed over three years ago by CIDS, and shorter still than the $100 minimum wage recently demanded by factory workers, who have come down from $120.

Still, that business leaders have agreed to any raise at all is apparently cause for optimism. Serey Vathanak Yim–of the International Labour Organization, which is observing the negotiations–praised manufacturers for acknowledging the need for a wage increase, and said the ILO will “encourage the parties to continue their effective dialogue as part of promoting industrial harmony.”

Sokny Say, General secretary of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), took a more ominous tone, saying factory workers “might consider industrial union action if their demand was not met.”