‘Vote to decide minimum wage if compromise is not reached’

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Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour. Final discussions on next year’s minimum wage will be held on Friday, with minister Ith Sam Heng saying he will consider putting the matter to a vote if no compromise is reached. Hean Rangsey

Final discussions on next year’s minimum wage will be held on Friday, with Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng telling The Post that he will consider deciding the matter through a vote if a compromise is not reached.

The National Council on Minimum Wage, workers unions and employer representatives had met 18 times since late last month to discuss the minimum wage.

The decision will impact more than 80,000 workers in the garment, footwear and textile sector.

Employers walked into last week’s negotiations offering $186 a month, unions requested the figure to be raised to $195 a month, while the ministry has held firm to its $187 offer since discussions began.

These numbers could change on Friday in the presence of Heng, who would approve the new wage law as he is also chairman of the National Council on Minimum wage.

“As per the Law on Minimum Wage, if on September 20, the parties cannot agree, then the National Council on Minimum Wage will vote on setting a formal figure for the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training to consider and approve,” Heng said.

Union representatives have proposed several provisions for the ministry to mull over as well, including a $1 food allowance, the reinstatement of cancelled holidays, safe transportation for workers and expanding the minimum wage to include workers in the tourism, services and construction industries.

Nang Sothy, who represented employers as deputy president of the National Council on Minimum Wage, said a figure of $187 a month is most likely to garner support if the issue came to a vote.

“We already know the government will offer $187, while employers demand $186 whether the parties want it or not. Ultimately the figure may end up being $187,” he said.

International Labour Organisation national coordinator Tun Sophorn said the employers’ and ministry’s offers were not far off from their analysis.

He said if calculated with a four per cent increase, workers should receive $7 on top of the ministry’s offer – bringing the minimum wage to $189 per month.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in wages for workers in the garment sector in the past five years, but it must increase to keep up with the prices of goods.

“If room rents and electricity continue to increase, the increased wages won’t end up in workers’ pockets,” he said.

Factory worker Yang Saman will be watching the final round of discussions closely.

The 13-year veteran of the garment manufacturing industry said her wages of $170 a month have left her living hand-to-mouth after she sends a monthly remittance to family members in the provinces.

Rents for workers’ quarters, Saman said, have increased by $5-$10 already.

She believes that each factory worker should receive monthly wages of between $182 and $250, including benefits and overtime wages.

“The [union] demand of $195 per month is okay, even if it is lowered by $1 or $2.

“I would like to call on Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] and Bun Rany in hopes that they will see the hardships endured by workers in Cambodia. Our salaries are not decent. I hope the [officials] will review all factories operating in the Kingdom,” she said.