Not ‘all unions’ agreed to wage demand, FTU says

Source: Phnom Penh Post|Wed, 7 September 2016, By

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Garment workers on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard protest for a minimum wage of $177 a month in 2014. With wage talks gearing up this year, the Free Trade Union has disavowed the consensus figure of $179.60, putting forward its own demand of $183.

The Free Trade Union yesterday asked the Labour Ministry to exclude it from a letter sent by 16 other prominent unions demanding a $179.60 minimum wage for 2017, saying they had not signed off on that wage figure.

The letter, sent last Friday following a meeting with the assembled unions, states that “all of the unions now agree” on the roughly $180 monthly wage demand ahead of the upcoming tripartite wage negotiations.

But FTU deputy president Man Seng Hak said yesterday that while his union was part of those discussions, they had not signed on to the final wage demand.

“We reject that letter. Though FTU is among the 17 unions that discussed wages, FTU did not sign it and agree to $179.60,” Seng Hak said. “We demand at least $183 per month.”

The FTU’s letter goes on to complain that despite their not signing the letter due to the disagreement, it was nonetheless submitted to the ministry with their name on it anyway.

However, Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labour Confederation, said the letter was sent because a large majority of the unions had agreed to the $179.60 figure, with Seng Hak having left the meeting before the vote was taken.

“He [Seng Hak] left the meeting when we were signing the letter and he did not answer his phone,” Thorn said. “He is doing it alone, so it will not be effective. I don’t care about this because 16 unions have agreed to it.”

Thorn said that during initial discussions, the FTU’s preferred $185 figure was floated, based on a calculation that accounted for 5 per cent inflation. However, after speaking to other experts, the group decided to base it on 3 per cent inflation, which brought the wage figure down to $179.60.

Thorn was yesterday backed up by Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, who said Seng Hak was conspicuously quiet at the meeting and missing towards the latter part of the discussions. He expressed confidence in the $179.60 wage request, saying that unions would be able to back it up during negotiations with the government and employer representatives because it was based on research – unlike the FTU’s figure.

“It will not be an obstacle to our negotiations going forward,” he said. “We have good reasons for our demands.”

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