MOEAF members sign code of conduct
AS controversy continues to swirl around allegations that the Myanmar government was condoning the “legal trafficking” of migrant workers to overseas jobs, it has emerged that more than 100 employment agencies have signed up to a new code of conduct.
Earlier this month, Thai and Myanmar labour officials vowed to take action against activist organisations that had accused them of complicity in poor working conditions endured by Myanmar workers in the kingdom.
Two rights groups, the Myanmar Association in Thailand (MAT) and the Aid Alliance Committee for Myanmar Workers (AAC), had compared the formal, sanctioned channels for sending Myanmar labourers overseas via memoranda of understanding to exploitative human smuggling rings. The Myanmar labour ministry then threatened unspecified action against them.
The code of conduct, which is designed to improve migrants’ working conditions, was drawn up by the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies’ Federation with the help of the International Labour Organization (ILO). On August 19, 122 of 143 agencies signed the document at Yangon’s Novotel Max Hotel in front of officials from the ILO and the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.
“I want agency members to regard this code of conduct as a shield. We’re signing to demonstrate the level of our services to the media and social organisations that have attacked our agencies,” said U Win Tun, deputy chair of MOEAF.
However, he said that despite the involvement of MOEAF members in the drafting of the code, some members were not interested in signing. Initially, only about 40 members had undertaken to comply with its provisions.
“We’re being criticised because some agencies couldn’t follow the rules. If the agencies comply with the code, I believe our reputation will improve,” he told participants at the signing ceremony.
MOEAF officials told The Myanmar Times that the rules laid down in the code of conduct were not very different from the rules laid down by the ministry when the agencies applied for an overseas employment licence.
The code is expected to spell out the rights of Myanmar migrants more clearly and to monitor the service standards of the agencies, MOEAF said.
“We will award marks and ratings to agencies according to their level of compliance with the rules and their responsibilities for the treatment of the migrants they have sent abroad. If they follow the rules, their reputation will be enhanced,” said U Kyaw Zaw, general secretary of MOEAF.
MOEAF members attend the signing ceremony in Yangon on August 19.