Unions request government to set workers’ minimum wage

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Government, employer and union representatives attend a consultation meeting on the draft minimum wage law in Phnom Penh in April. Pha Lina

Unions have asked the government to set the minimum wage for the construction and service sectors and to solve the five other major problems facing them, a statement released on International Human Rights Day on Monday said.

In addition to the minimum wage request, the unions appealed to the government to insist that previous employers of illegally dismissed union leaders and activists accept their return and allow them to work.

They also want to see a revision of some articles of the Trade Union Law and seek a review of Announcement 303 on union representatives, dated July 2.

The unions further requested the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention 149 on the protection of domestic and migrant workers.

And finally, they requested the implementation of the Law on Domestic Workers.

The president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, Din Puthy, said the minimum wage of construction and tourism workers and staff at hotels and casinos depends on the owner of the institution.

Therefore, the minimum wage has not yet managed to properly support their livelihood.

He said that if the government set the minimum wage for the construction and service sectors, workers’ livelihoods would improve. In addition, it would help reduce emigration as workers would deem their own country’s wage adequate.

“The minimum wage of workers and staff in the construction and service sectors depends on the owner. We will get the amount that the owner is willing to offer us."

“If the owner is a good person, we might get a high amount. But, if we work for a mean owner, we find it hard to get a wage increase even though we have worked for years,” Puthy said.

The deputy director of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Khat Lot, said that the minimum wage of all workers cannot properly support their livelihood because the cost of goods is also increasing.

He said besides spending money on goods, workers also have to pay for medical treatment because, when they are sick, having a National Social Security Fund card means they do not get attentive care from some medics.

“They have had to deal with a low minimum wage for some time, but now they are also faced with a smelly factory environment and the food in front of the factories is not good,” he said.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the unions’ intentions were good but it is a cornerstone of management and government thinking too.

He said the government can manage or set wages for huge construction companies but for smaller ones, it might be able to further study the impact and interests of those workers and company owners.

He said in the near future the government will study the problem in order to find a solution for everyone.

“The government, through the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, is considering how to help workers to obtain better benefits while preventing companies from losing too much. We need to ensure that we can help them as well as the factory workers,” Siphan said.