Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor has increased the minimum wage for garment and footwear workers by only $2 for next year, with workers and labor advocates calling the raise inadequate to meet workers’ needs.

The raise from $192 to $194 per month will take effect Jan. 1, 2022, and other benefits allowed under Cambodia’s labor laws will remain the same as those in force this year, ministry officials said in an announcement on Tuesday.

One Cambodian trade union official called the raise too low, noting that the government has recently reduced paid leaves for workers and that inflation has hit the country hard.

“Our labor law says that a minimum wage must allow workers to have a decent life,” said Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, adding that workers now struggle every day with overcrowded transportation and housing, and must pay almost $1 every day for each meal.

Unions had argued for a minimum wage of $204 for next year, and will now consult with their members to see if they can use the law to force a higher wage, she said.

Attempts by RFA to reach Minister of Labor spokesperson Heng Sour for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Kong Athit, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said that some union members of the Labor Advisory Committee that voted on the new minimum wage had cast their votes in favor of the interests of manufacturers and Cambodia’s government.

The government’s Labor Advisory Committee consists of 17 members representing the labor unions, the government, and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, he said. “But this morning, only four union members voted in favor of a new $204 minimum wage for the workers.”

The $2 raise is too small and of no real help to workers’ lives, he said.

Garment worker Douk Sarann said she too was disappointed with the wage increase announced on Tuesday.

“The government’s increase of $2 shows that it has no concern for the difficulties and risks workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic so that employers can make profits and strengthen the country’s economy,” she said.

Her new monthly salary of only $194 won’t help her to cope with inflation, loans, and the cost of rent and utilities, she said.

Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, said that workers will be upset with the new minimum wage and may decide someday to protest, adding that when workers showed unity in their protests in the past, the government responded with a fair wage.

“Protests would help to [redefine the minimum wage] and would close loopholes in the law,” he said.


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