Unions are discussing potential industrial action

Unions are discussing potential industrial action

Independent unions in Cambodia have expressed their dissatisfaction at the Government's new minimum wage for garment workers, and will meet today (12 October) to consider strike action.

The Cambodian Government last week announced it had set the country's minimum wage at US$140 per month – a 9.4% increase on the current wage of $128 – from the beginning of next year.

The new wage was agreed following eight days of negotiations by a committee representing employers, workers and the government, but is well below the $168 that unions had been seeking.

As a result, IndustriAll Global Union said independent unions in Cambodia would meet today to consider strike action after being “let down” by the negotiations.

“We are not happy. So on Monday we will be consulting with our general council and colleagues from across the country, as well as other unions in Cambodia, to decide whether or not to strike,” said Ath Thorn, president of IndustriAll Global Union affiliate C.CAWDU.”

A tripartite group of trade unions, garment manufacturers and government representatives on Cambodia’s Labour Advisory Committee voted for the new minimum wage on 8 October following weeks of meetings.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriAll, said the unions are “disappointed” by the new wage, which they believe is “below the expectations of workers”.

“It illustrates the relevance of our new ACT initiative with global brands, which sets out to increase garment sector wages by building industry-level collective bargaining structures.”

The ACT initiative was set up by the IndustriAll Global Union – involving brands including H&M, Inditex and Primark – 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.

Cambodia's apparel industry is the country's largest manufacturing sector, but it has been blighted by strikes and wage disputes. The country exported US$5.82bn worth of apparel products last year, and employs more than 600,000 workers, but its wages remain among the lowest in the industry.