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Brands crucial to achieving living wages in Cambodia

12 May, 2015Affiliates from Cambodia and the Philippines came together in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on May 7-8 to share experiences in their respective campaigns for a living wage and to plan future strategies.

Cambodia’s existing minimum wage fixing process has limitations and has not been able to deliver a living wage. Representation on the wage-fixing council is not equal; research findings that the level of a living wage is much higher than the current minimum wage are not implemented; the government and employers are still worried that if the minimum wage is raised too high, brands will stop sourcing from Cambodia.

Affiliates welcomed IndustriALL’s engagement with global garment brands towards developing industry bargaining for garment workers.

IndustriALL policy director Jenny Holdcroft says:

Garment buyers need to be engaged in discussions on wages, to make commitments towards continuing sourcing from Cambodia and to use their leverage with employers to increase the wage.

A wages expert from the ILO provided valuable information on wage fixing mechanisms and how to use them. The importance of regular, steady increases to the minimum wage with annual adjustments, based on analysis and consensus-building was emphasized.

Union representatives from the Philippines shared their experiences with working with a minimum wage fixing mechanism which is built on by collective bargaining increases, and described how they are using these structures to continue their fight for a living wage.

The Cambodian unions further developed their plans for engaging in the next minimum wage fixing process due to take place in October, to secure a further increase for 2016 towards a living wage.

The unions will request research on wage movements from the ILO, as well as technical support and will use this as a basis for determining what their common demand to the government will be. They will work together to get government support for their position. Action will be needed to ensure that when the minimum wage increases, so does the piece rate as this has so far not been the case.

Affiliates called on each other to maintain solidarity during the minimum wage process and stick to a united position. Steps will be taken to include more unions in the joint position.

The likely need for solidarity support from IndustriALL and international unions was recognized, as was commitment from the brands that they will not pull out of Cambodia if the minimum wage increases.

The meeting concluded with the Cambodian affiliates expressing their full support for moving forward together in the process that IndustriALL has started with global brands towards industry bargaining on wages. The next step will be for the unions to develop their proposals for a national plan of action for implementation in Cambodia to be discussed with the brands and their suppliers.