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Cambodia raises wages for garment workers

September 29, 2016

The government has hailed a deal to raise wages for the country's estimated 700,000 garment workers. But some union representatives have criticized the latest raise, saying it falls short of a fair minimum wage.

A Cambodian woman working at a factory
Image: picture alliance/dpa/M. Remissa

Garment industry representatives, unions and the government agreed to raising wages for garment workers by 9.2 percent by the beginning of next year, Cambodia's Ministry of Labor, Vocational and Training said on Thursday.

"The minimum wage of garment factory workers for 2017 has been officially set at $153 (136 euros) per month," the ministry said in a statement.

However, some union representatives said the latest increase of $13 monthly, compared to $140 in 2014, fell drastically short of a fair minimum wage.

"All the workers' union leaders and I, myself, are not happy with this new increased wage," said Ath Thorn, president of one of the unions that took part in negotiations.

"Due to the general expenses of the workers being too high, especially the prices of goods that keep increasing day by day, I think the fair minimum wage for the workers should $171 per month," he added.

Garment workers' wages have been a headache for Cambodia's government since mass demonstrations four years ago.

'Terrible record'

In 2014, police opened fire on textile workers protesting for an increase to their then-monthly wages of $80, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more in the nation's capital of Phnom Penh.

Following the incident, the government raised the minimum wage to $100 per month for the rest of the year.

Human rights organizations have criticized the government's lax implementation of labor laws and horrid working conditions for laborers, despite factories holding contracts to produce clothing for major international brands, including Armani, Adidas and H&M.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch called on the government to enforce adequate protection of the estimated 700,000 workers in the industry, the majority of them women.

"The Cambodian government should take swift measures to reverse its terrible record of enforcing its labor laws and protect workers from abuse," said HRW women's rights researcher Aruna Kashyap.

 The human rights watchdog issued a report with testimonies of laborers reporting horrendous working conditions, including abuse and sexual harassment.

ls/kms (AFP, AP)