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Cambodia Sets Minimum Wage

After months of unrest and unsettled pay rates, Cambodia’s Labor Committee said Wednesday it would increase the monthly minimum wage for garment workers by 28 percent to $128. The raise is short of what unions had sought, and some say the too-low offer could stir a new round of strikes in the country.

Unions had originally been fighting to see the wages go from the previous $100 per month to $177, but settled on $140 as their lowest acceptable offer.

Cambodia’s government-run Labor Advisory Committee voted in favor of a monthly rate of $123, but Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng recommended adding $5, according to the Phnom Penh Post. The state-defined poverty level is $120 a month.

In the last year, strikes in the sector were rampant—and at times violent as at least three were killed when military police fired on protestors demanding higher wages in January. But the Cambodian government had been hesitant to raise the rate despite the ongoing unrest in fear that factory owners would be unable to pay and that factories might have been forced to relocate.

The Labor Ministry said the decision will now go before Minister Ith Sam Heng, and if approved, the increased wage rate will take effect from Jan. 1, 2015.

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thorn, who voted for the $140, said the wage was less that what the unions will accept, and according to the Phnom Penh Post, members from eight labor unions that supported last year’s nationwide strike will meet today to discuss their next course of action.