Labour group de­cries coun­try’s record on unions, worker rights

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - EI SHWE PHYU eish­we­phyu@mm­times.com

MYAN­MAR is among 24 coun­tries that have very bad records on sup­port­ing labour unions and the right of work­ers to form unions, of­fi­cials of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Trade Union Myan­mar said.

Daw Phyo San­dar Soe, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of the group, said this was one of the con­clu­sions of the re­cent 107th In­ter­na­tional Labour Con­fer­ence in Geneva.

The con­fer­ence noted that the Free­dom of As­so­ci­a­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights to Or­gan­ise Con­ven­tion, which Myan­mar rat­i­fied in 1955, is poorly im­ple­mented in the coun­try.

The com­mit­tee on ap­pli­ca­tion of the stan­dards of the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ILO) ex­pressed re­gret that de­spite the long time since Myan­mar rat­i­fied the con­ven­tion, there has been no im­prove­ment in im­ple­ment­ing the con­ven­tion.

Dur­ing the con­fer­ence, the Myan­mar del­e­gates dis­cussed the plight of work­ers in the coun­try who try to or­gan­ise unions. They told the con­fer­ence that union lead­ers are fired and there are many ways that man­age­ment tries to break unions, which do not get enough pro­tec­tion from the govern­ment, ac­cord­ing to Daw Phyo San­dar Soe.

U Maung Muang, chair of the con- fed­er­a­tion, told the con­fer­ence there are few op­por­tu­ni­ties for work­ers to or­gan­ise as man­age­ment al­ways takes mea­sures to break unions.

“Lead­ers of unions have been fired by em­ploy­ers and there is no way to pro­tect them. The unions are for­bid­den to ex­er­cise their rights un­der the peace­ful as­sem­bly and peace­ful pro­ces­sion law,” he said.

The con­fed­er­a­tion said that al­though there are over 2000 labour unions in the coun­try, the to­tal num­ber of their mem­bers is only 0.6 per­cent of the na­tional work­force.

The Myan­mar del­e­gates said the right to or­gan­ise unions is weak be- cause the lead­ers of the union can be fired. If unions are weak, there is no as­so­ci­a­tion to stand up for labour rights, said Daw Phyo San­dar Soe.

De­spite the unions’ prob­lems, U Nay Lin Aung, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of the Myan­mar In­dus­tries Craft and Ser­vices Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion ex­pressed con­fi­dence that things will get bet­ter for the unions.

“I be­lieve the union move­ment will be strong in the fu­ture,” he said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

The con­fed­er­a­tion and the fed­er­a­tion were among the or­gan­i­sa­tions from Myan­mar that were rep­re­sented at the con­fer­ence, which was held from May 28 to June 8.

Daw Khaing Zar Aung, cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber of the con­fed­er­a­tion, urged the ILO to help work­ers con­vince the govern­ment to im­ple­ment the con­ven­tion.

The con­fer­ence dis­cussed four key is­sues about the weak im­ple­men­ta­tion of the con­ven­tion in Myan­mar – amend­ment of the labour law and peace­fully as­sem­bly law, dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place, and prob­lems in spe­cial eco­nomic zones. The labour fed­er­a­tions as well as gov­ern­ments and em­ploy­ers from the Euro­pean Union, Ja­pan, South Korea, and Por­tu­gal backed the Myan­mar rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ dis­cus­sion of is­sues at the con­fer­ence.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives had worked to get the con­ven­tion agenda tabled at the con­fer­ence since March 2017. They met with in­ter­na­tional trade union con­fed­er­a­tion law ex­perts and sub­mit­ted to the ILO 29 cases and five sig­nif­i­cant cases re­lated to vi­o­la­tions of the rights of labour unions in the coun­try.

Pres­i­dent U Win Myint, dur­ing his speech af­ter he was sworn in as the new coun­try leader in March, vowed to im­prove the lot of the ba­sic sec­tors in the so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing the work­ers.

The rul­ing Na­tional League for Democ­racy (NLD) has been crit­i­cised by the labour sec­tor for not do­ing enough to pro­tect the coun­try’s mil­ions of work­ers.

– The Wash­ing­ton Post

An un­dated photo of work­ers on strike in Yangon. Photo: Zaw Zaw Htwe

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