Factory owners boycott wage talks for Cambodian garment workers

Garment factory owners failed to turn up for what was supposed to have been a tripartite meeting with the government and worker unions on Thursday to help break an impasse in negotiations to increase the minimum wage for workers, officials said. The International Labor Organization (ILO) had organized the tripartite talks, the first since strikes by garment workers pushing for an increase in the minimum wage were violently suppressed in early January. The meeting was primarily intended to debate and set a formula that can be used to adjust the minimum wage for garment workers amid criticism that the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), the tripartite body tasked with fixing the wage, has failed to bring a resolution to the issue. … Ath Thon, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), the country’s largest independent union, said that if a new minimum wage can be agreed upon based on the social and economic data the groups have been collecting, the workers “would have no further need to protest.” The debate over salaries in Cambodia’s garment industry, a key export earner, was at the heart of strikes in the capital Phnom Penh in January which left five people and nearly 40 wounded when security forces opened fire on workers demanding higher minimum wages. Unions and workers for Cambodia’s garment and footwear industries are demanding that the government raise minimum wages from U.S. $100 to U.S. $160 a month and improve working conditions, as well as the release of 21 people arrested in connection with the January crackdown. … On Thursday, Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and local groups ADHOC and Licadho called on the Cambodian government to “drop all charges” against the 23 in a joint statement. “Cambodia’s judiciary must end this baseless prosecution of garment workers and human rights defenders who have been severely beaten, arbitrarily arrested, and detained for several months for peacefully demonstrating to demand an adequate minimum wage,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. …

Radio Free Asia News Staff