Cambodias garment and footwear sector is the countrys largest industry. Copyright: Human Rights Watch

Cambodia's garment and footwear sector is the country's largest industry. Copyright: Human Rights Watch

A group of independent and pro-government trade unions has agreed on a proposal for a new US$168 monthly minimum wage in the Cambodian garment sector, although talks are still underway with employers.

A spokesperson for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) confirmed the figure to just-style, but declined to provide any further information due to the ongoing discussions.

Cambodia's garment and footwear sector is the country's largest industry, employing more than 600,000 workers. Wage negotiations for 2016 began a few months after the minimum wage was lifted by 28% to $128 at the start of this year.

It is understood some unions wanted to push the wage up to $207, the median monthly spend of the country’s garment workers, while other government-aligned unions wanted a rise of no more than 10-15%. According to The Cambodia Daily, the two sides later proposed $178 and $158, respectively, and finally agreed to split the difference.

The publication noted that while employers have yet to announce their exact proposal to the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), they have said the minimum wage should not rise by more than 3% in order to keep it at, or below, the inflation rate.

The LAC, made up of government, factory and union representatives, is expected to make its proposal to the Labour Ministry by Monday next week - with the rise to be decided by the end of next month and put into force on 1 January.

In addition to talks on the minimum wage, a new initiative – ACT – set up by the IndustriAll Global Union and involving brands including H&M, Inditex and Primark, got under way in Cambodia recently to discuss moves towards a living wage for garment workers.

Its aim is to try and change the way companies source garments to ensure higher wages can be paid, linking the supply chain responsibilities of buyers to the collective bargaining process between local unions and employers.

IndustriAll says that, to date, unilateral, voluntary and non-binding efforts by all have overwhelmingly failed to improve wages and working hours.

“We believe this model will help address the issue of wages in the garment industry because it provides both a mechanism for raising wages through industry bargaining, but also a mechanism that can be linked to the purchasing practices of brands in a way that the current minimum wage fixing mechanism that still exists in many of these countries cannot,” said Jenny Holdcroft, policy director at IndustriAll.

Click on the following link to read more: Brands back industry-wide wage bargaining in Cambodia.