29 September, 2021The Prime Minister of Cambodia’s announcement of a US$2 increase to the minimum wage has left trade unions dissatisfied.
Cambodia’s National Minimum Wage Council (NMWC) have been negotiating over the last two weeks to determine the new minimum wage rate for 2022. Negotiations were intense as employers demanded to reduce the minimum wage from US$192 to US$188 owing to the economic downturn.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates and their confederation leaders argued for an increase to US$204, based on a study on the seven criteria of determining minimum wage with the support of IndustriALL. Many workers are struggling to cope with higher food prices and housing loans in industrial zones.
When most of the NMWC members voted for US$192, Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened and adjusted the minimum wage to US$194.
Athit Kong, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) says:
"The majority of Cambodian garment workers are not happy with the US$2 increase to the minimum wage in 2022. In order to strengthen our negotiation power, all garment workers must take ownership of this struggle with international solidarity."
Despite dissatisfaction, trade unions have to accept the decision as Covid-19 has severely impacted the labour market and foreign investment in Cambodia. A World Bank survey shows that the Cambodian employment rate has declined and 45 percent of households suffered income losses.
Kim Chan Samnang, president of Trade Union Workers' Federation of Progress Democracy (TUWFPD), and vice-president of the National Minimum Wage Council, says:
“We fought for US$204, but taking the impact of Covid-19 into consideration, we are pleased to follow the majority decision. We hope the minimum wage can be increased next year, when the pandemic is over.”
Seven years ago, global unions staged an international day of action to call on the Cambodian government to significantly increase the poverty wage of US$100 to US$177. Since then, the Cambodian government has steadily increased the minimum wage.
Annie Adviento, IndustriALL South East Asia regional secretary, says:
“We will continue to support our affiliates in their fight for a living wage. International solidarity has worked in the past, it will also work in the future.”
Cover photo: Garment factory in Cambodia, Decent Work Country Programme, ILO