Labour union threat­ens boy­cott of Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­times.com

ONE of Myan­mar’s largest of­fi­cially recog­nised labour unions has vowed to boy­cott the Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil and to stage strikes if they en­counter prob­lems with em­ploy­ers. The an­nounce­ment is yet another protest of the newly ap­pointed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion body.

U Naw Aung, speak­ing on be­half of the Myan­mar In­dus­tries Crafts and Ser­vices Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion (MICF), said on Au­gust 1 that un­less the cur­rent rep­re­sen­ta­tives are re­placed, work­ers will side­step the coun­cil.

“If they don’t hold a re-elec­tion, we will go against their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and we won’t ac­knowl­edge them or their de­ci­sions. We have lost our trust in the Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil and if a prob­lem hap­pens with work­ers un­der our or­gan­i­sa­tion, we won’t go through the coun­cil mech­a­nism, but will stage strikes,” he said.

The quasi-le­gal Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil acts as a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion body, ne­go­ti­at­ing be­tween em­ploy­ers and their work­ers. In early July, five new mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing work­ers were elected to the 15-mem­ber coun­cil. Many labour­ers cried foul, claim­ing that the new mem­bers were not demo­crat­i­cally elected and do not ac­cu­rately re­flect work­ers’ in­ter­ests.

None of the new work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives – U Tin Tun, U Maung Maung Aye, U Thein Ky­wal, U Thin Maung Swe and U Ye Kyaw Thu – rep­re­sent a labour union, ac­cord­ing to U Naw Aung. Two of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­firmed to The Myan­mar Times that they work in the pri­vate sec­tor, but de­clined to share the names of their com­pa­nies.

When the first coun­cil was cre­ated in 2012, most of the labour rep­re­sen­ta­tives were drawn from pri­vate busi­nesses, a stick­ing point for labour unions and the em­ploy­ees sup­pos­edly be­ing rep­re­sented.

The coun­cil, which has the fi­nal say on dis­putes that work their way up to it when de­ci­sions by sim­i­lar lo­cal and re­gional tri­bunals are ap­pealed, is to have five rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of three sec­tors: the Min­istry of Labour, em­ploy­ers’ or­gan­i­sa­tions and labour groups.

“The rep­re­sen­ta­tives have to go through a qual­i­fi­ca­tion process first be­fore their nom­i­na­tion is sub­mit­ted to the gov­ern­ment. They serve as of­fi­cial com­mit­tee mem­bers only af­ter they are con­firmed by the Union gov­ern­ment,” said U Ye Naing Win, an out­go­ing work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil.

He added that none of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives ap­pointed to the coun­cil have been con­firmed yet, as ne­go­ti­a­tions with the dis­put­ing labour unions are on­go­ing.

“The Min­istry of Labour would have re­jected our nom­i­na­tion if we were not qual­i­fied,” said newly ap­pointed mem­ber U Ye Kyaw Thu. “But we were cho­sen fair and square, I be­lieve.”

The coun­cil’s term is two years and the cur­rent term will ex­pire by Septem­ber, said lawyer U Htay, who is also a mem­ber of the coun­cil.

Around 350 work­ers from Yangon’s in­dus­trial zones gath­ered at Ma­ha­ban­doola Park on July 31 to march against the re­cent ap­point­ments to the Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil. But the demon­stra­tors were blocked by po­lice who told them they lacked the nec­es­sary per­mit to march down­town.

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