| PHNOM PENH, Sept 29
PHNOM PENH, Sept 29 Cambodia agreed on Thursday
to raise to $153 from next year the minimum monthly wage of
workers in its crucial textiles and footwear industry, which
generates $6 billion annually for the economy.
The industry has created 600,000 jobs that sustain rural
families and have spurred years of robust growth, but strikes by
increasingly assertive and politicized unions have become a
problem for the country.
Thursday's decision followed a majority vote by government
representatives, factories and unions who backed the raise from
a figure of $140 now, following months of negotiations.
The increase will help to raise workers' standards of living
and boost productivity, the labour ministry said in a statement,
but added, "Other benefits that workers have been receiving must
be kept the same."
The new wage takes effect in January, it said.
It fell short of the sum of $171 sought by the unions, which
complained that their members struggle to make ends meet.
"We didn't get what we demanded but we thank those involved
for their efforts," said Pav Sina, president of the Collective
Union Movement of Workers, which says its represents 35,000
Sustaining the textiles sector is a tricky balancing act for
Cambodia. Higher wages could appease workers but make the
country uncompetitive, the unions say.
"If the minimum wage is set to raise every year, our
industry may face challenges," Sina said. "Investors may leave
to find cheaper places, so we will have to see what the future
will be like."
For instance, the new Cambodia figure is more than double
the $64 minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh, the
world's second biggest exporter of garments after
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre
and Clarence Fernandez)