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Cambodia: Garment Worker Wage Talks Fall Apart

The tripartite working group established to advise Cambodia’s government-run Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) on next year’s minimum wage for garment sector workers has reached a stalemate and ceased the requisite pay talks.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, the 27-member working group, made up of nine employers, nine members of government and nine union representatives, opted to end talks after a meeting last week when employer reps would not agree to raise the rate beyond $110 per month. The Ministry of Labor said the wage could not be lower than $120, which is right at the poverty line in Cambodia.

Unions have been fighting for months to see workers’ wages increased from the current $100 per month to $177. The country’s Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) had proposed raising the rate to $115 per month, but workers have been displaying their displeasure over the too-low rate since.

The tripartite advisory group was formed last month, and Labor Ministry spokesman Ith Sam Heng said originally that the group would not have a time limit, and that negotiations would have to continue until the party came to a consensus.

But the fact that the talks have reached a stalemate was no surprise to Community Legal Education Center consultant Joel Preston. “It’s just another example; we hear the government saying one thing, then the results are different,” Preston told the Phnom Penh Post. “We want to see dialogue, but we want to see results,” he said, adding that the government has already formed enough committees and has enough information to be able to decide on a minimum wage for 2015.

All but one union had agreed to accept a new monthly wage of $140, but president of the Cambodia Alliance Trade Union (CATU) Yang Sophorn wasn’t interested in accepting anything shy of the $177 sought.

“I want the unions to keep the same stance, because it can show the employers that we are still strong,” the Phnom Penh Post reported Sophorn as saying.