Cambodia Wants Factory Wage Cuts

Prime Minister Hun Sen said a 70% cut in nightshift pay will create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen promised May 8 to push ahead with a controversial wage cut for garment workers, despite threats of a nationwide strike. Hun Sen said a 70% cut in nightshift pay will create tens of thousands of new jobs in Cambodia's key clothing sector.

Current labor law ensures nightshift workers get twice the daily rate, which in Cambodia averages around US$50 a month.

But the prime minister said the requirement was discouraging companies from staffing their factories in the evening. "The real goal is to find jobs for our workers ... factories dare not create nightshift jobs," he said at a university graduation ceremony.

However, Chea Mony, who heads Cambodia's largest labor organization, the Free Trade Union, said workers would go on strike nationwide if the labor law was amended to reduce nightshift wages. "The workers are not happy and they will strike or demonstrate across the country when parliament amends the law ... I'm asking lawmakers to consider the interests of the workers," he said.

Cambodia's clothing sector employs 330,000 people, who are mostly young women from the impoverished countryside, working to support their families. The country's garment exports, which account for 80% of foreign exchange, jumped 17% to $2.5 billion in 2006. However, manufacturers warn that labor disputes could damage investment. The sector has been hit by attacks on labor leaders, including the murders of three union bosses, which has prompted complaints from several international companies doing business in Cambodia.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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