Cambodian minister blames low wages on US import duties

Minister of industry says garment factories will leave country if union demands for increase to $100 minimum wage are met

Cambodian minister blames low wages on US import duties

World Bulletin/News Desk

While the Cambodian government would like to raise garment worker salaries, the minister of industry told parliament it is unable to do so while the United States levies such high duties on imports.

Cham Prasidh, minister of handicrafts and industry, placed the blame for workers’ poor conditions squarely on the U.S.’s shoulders, saying that union demands for a $77 a month increase to the current $100 minimum wage would be possible without the "unjust" taxes, The Phnom Penh Post reported Friday.

Cambodia paid $500 million worth of import duties to the U.S. last year, the minister said Thursday, highlighting that other countries charge lower duties due to the fact that Cambodia is a developing country.

Under a trade scheme known as "everything but arms," the European Union places no tax on Cambodian imports at all.

"All the factories would run away" if the government conceded to workers demands for a pay rise, Prasidh said, adding: "If we demand too much, our rice pot will turn upside down and we will not have rice to eat."

"It is so unjust for us. It means that these days we help America with $500 million every year," he said, according to The Post.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, taking the floor after Prasidh's speech to parliament, suggested that another way to give workers the $77 pay hike they have been demanding would be to weed out corruption at home.

"If we reduce under-the-table payments or clear out unofficial payments altogether, I believe that we will benefit - benefit for the nation and for the workers," he said.

Garments are Cambodia's biggest export industry - worth $5 billion last year - and the sector employs about 600,000 people, mainly young women from the countryside. The country's many factories produce clothing for high-street European and U.S. brands such as H&M, Zara and Nike.

In January, five workers who had been taking part in mass strikes calling for higher wages were shot dead by police.

The monthly minimum wage was raised this year from $85 to $100, but unions and workers have recently started calling for another $77 increase to the basic monthly salary.

According to the government's own calculations, the poverty line in the capital stands at $120 a month.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2014, 11:15