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Cambodia: Disputes Over Wage Hikes Could Spur New Round of Unrest

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Cambodian garment workers unions have promised to reignite protests if their monthly wages are only increased to $115, a number reportedly offered by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) during a meeting last week.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia president Ken Chhenglang said local unions had proposed increasing the wage rate from the current $100 per month to $177, but GMAC offered $115 instead, purportedly in keeping with the government’s plan to gradually raise wages to $160 by 2018.

During a June meeting, the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), GMAC, ministry representatives and trade unions signed an agreement stipulating that garment workers would see salary increases at the start of every year.

Late last year, LAC raised the monthly minimum wage from $80 to $95, but workers’ unions had been seeking $160 per month and their displeasure led to unrest.

Thousands of workers stormed the streets, angered over what they considered a miserly increase, and the walkout caused production delays and halted transportation. In an effort to placate the demonstrators, the Cambodian government offered to raise the wages to $100 per month, effective in February.

Now unions are threatening to strike again if GMAC stays set on $115.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said, “Of course [protests] will happen, because we cannot accept $115,” according to the Phnom Penh Post.

LAC vice chairman and worker representative Chuon Momthol said, however, that he believed an agreement could be reached. “We will try to avoid protests,” he said.

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