Garment Workers Minimum Wage to be Reviewed

Unions, employers and government representatives are slated to launch discussions on August 15 to discuss raising the minimum wage for garment workers in 2023.
Factory workers leave work in Phnom Penh, August 8, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Factory workers leave work in Phnom Penh, August 8, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

An inaugural meeting to discuss a new minimum wage for 2023 for the country’s garment workers is slated to start on August 15 involving union representatives, employers and government representatives.

Heng Sour, spokesman at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said on Monday that each year the National Minimum Wage Council, which is composed of 17 equal representatives from the Royal Government, workers 'representatives and employers' representatives, will hold a meeting to discuss the minimum wage changes.

All parties must use official data and scientific studies based on social and economic criteria to serve as a basis for discussion, Sour said.

“In the past, this meeting has been considered as a model tripartite mechanism with transparency and high participation especially from employers and workers to come together to discuss the minimum and appropriate minimum wage changes from all parties,” Sour told Kiripost.

He added that the minimum wage for 2023 depends on the outcome of the upcoming meeting of the National Minimum Wage Council based on changes laid out in seven criteria.

According to the schedule of the National Minimum Wage Council of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, specific meetings to decide on any new figures will be held in September.

Pav Sina, President of Collective Union of Movement of Worker (CUMW), said on Monday that the meeting will start with Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training officials presenting a study about economic situations, looking at seven criteria for the new wage negotiations.

The seven criteria include the study of social and economic factors. Social factors refer to household status, inflation rate and cost of living. Economic factors refer to national competitiveness, productivity and labor market status and sector profit margins.

“Study needs to be studied by all parties, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, economic issues, development issues, export issues, accessibility issues, regional competition, such as Vietnam, Thai and Lao,” Sina said.

After the Ministry’s session, unions will meet to study various union reports and will have another meeting to determine a figure that can be submitted as the proposal to the ministry for negotiations.

"Currently, we have not set any figures before the meeting to gather information. We will submit the meeting date to negotiate, then we will study further,” Sina said.

The new figures will be to meet the living needs of the people in accordance with the current situation, and in a competitive manner, he said.

Ath Thorn, President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), said on Monday that the three potential scenarios for this year's wage increase are rising costs of living standards of workers, industry growth, and next year is also an election year.

He said that the current minimum wage, which is $194, is low, requiring garment workers to earn money from other sources, or borrow from families as prices of gasoline and other goods have risen.

He said that exports to Europe, the United States, and other countries have been growing. “In general, we see the potential, the opportunities, and the exports,” he added.

Thorn said that next year’s elections will allow politicians to work hard to attract support, including raising wages, setting up a good social security system, addressing issues of rights, freedoms, and favorable conditions.

“Therefore, the election year is a year where workers have more opportunities to push those who want to run for parliament or the government has more opportunities to push and have more influence,” Thorn said.

Kaing Monika, Deputy Secretary General of Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) said on Monday that he didn't know whether the wage should be raised or not next year.

“I do not have many ideas about how the figures vary depending on the seven criteria we have agreed on. Our figures are official and we will discuss them at the meeting,” Monika said.