Labour union threatens boycott of Arbitration Council
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.