Garment workers in Cambodia demonstrate in late December, demanding a doubling of the minimum wage from $80 to $160 a month. Union leaders say more than 300,000 workers in 120 factories across the country went on strike this week in response to the Dec. 24 announcement by the government’s Labor Advisory Council that the minimum wage will be raised to $95 in April 2014 and with annual increases to $160 in 2018. Union federations are demanding an immediate raise to $160.
Workers have staged a record number of strikes this year, most of them centered on demands for higher wages. According to the Garment Manufacturers Association, there were 131 strikes from January through November, up from 121 for all of last year. Adjusted for inflation, wages today are at the same level as 2000.
The Manufacturers Association issued a call to owners of 453 garment and 48 footwear factories to close until Dec. 30 “because of the current chaotic issue,” the group’s Secretary General Ken Loo told the Cambodia Herald Dec. 26. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training declared that actions protesting the new minimum wage are illegal.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which narrowly lost in the general election in July, called on the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to raise the minimum wage to $160 or step down. The party called for “workers, farmers and all people” to come together in a demonstration Dec. 29.