Union leaders are fighting for an increase in Cambodias minimum wage

Union leaders are fighting for an increase in Cambodia's minimum wage

Fashion brands and retailers have suggested they are prepared to factor in the cost of higher wages for garment workers in Cambodia when sourcing from the country.

According to the IndustriAll Global Union, leading companies which attended talks with the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh this week said they would be willing to accommodate any minimum wage increase in their future purchasing from the country.

The international brands represented included H&M, Gap, Puma, Levi’s and Inditex, which met Cambodia deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, four senior ministers and other government officials.

“For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia,” said IndustriAll general secretary Jyrki Raina, who also represented ITUC and the Uni Global Union at the talks.

“The ball is now in the court of the government and factory owners to get round the table and agree on a new wage-setting mechanism.”

The union and the brands also called for “clear timelines” regarding a new trade union law and wage-setting mechanisms, with the Cambodian government saying that new research on the process will be released in mid-June.

There were also concerns over the fairness of the forthcoming trials of 23 protesters arrested during workplace unrest in Cambodia earlier this year.

One of the fashion brands represented at the talks said it had cut its sourcing from the country by 50% thanks to concerns over political instability and alleged human rights violations.

The brands and the unions also called for a series of lawsuits brought against trade unions to be dropped so that the organisations can play a “full role” in social dialogue.

The meeting on Monday (26 May) was a follow-up to one held in February 2014 to discuss international concerns after four garment workers were killed in demonstrations calling for higher wages at the beginning of the year.

Cambodian garment unions are fighting to increase the minimum wage from US$100 to US$160 per month.

While brands and unions this week reiterated their desire for a positive future for the Cambodian garment sector, which employs around 500,000 people and generates revenues of US$5bn a year - they also warned that continued sourcing from the country would depend on stability, transparency, predictability and the rule of law.