Min­istry looks to amend labour laws, pressed to add jail terms

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

LABOUR laws could soon get an over­haul, with rights groups push­ing the gov­ern­ment to add harsher penal­ties for in­vet­er­ate law­break­ing em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial jail time.

Labour and Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter U Thein Swe said last week that his min­istry has been dis­cussing amend­ments with work­ers, em­ploy­ers and the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO).

“We are try­ing to amend the laws and will able to be re­port on our progress about labour af­fairs dur­ing the ILO’s meet­ing in the com­ing month,” he said on Oc­to­ber 6.

The Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion Law and the Labour Dis­pute Law are the most likely to be amended, he said.

A tri­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the min­istry, em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees will be held be­fore the fi­nal de­ci­sion re­gard­ing amend­ments is re­leased, said Labour and Im­mi­gra­tion Min­istry deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral U Aung Htay Win.

“The laws have many weak points and we need bet­ter en­force­ment in the fu­ture,” he said. “There­fore, we will try to make amend­ments agreed upon by all in­volved par­ties, the em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees. We are still re­view­ing and can­not say the ex­act date when the in­for­ma­tion about the changes will be re­leased.”

Work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­manded an amend­ment that would see em­ploy­ers im­pris­oned if they ha­bit­u­ally fail to fol­low rules re­lat­ing to labour dis­putes. In Septem­ber 2014 the Labour Dis­pute Law was amended to in­clude a max­i­mum K1 mil­lion fine, which labour unions say is too easy to pay off. The work­ers al­lege that they are left with lit­tle re­course, de­spite fu­elling a grow­ing in­dus­try that pro­vides a size­able por­tion of the coun­try’s ex­ports.

Sev­eral fac­to­ries have re­cently been taken to task after flout­ing ar­bi­tra­tion coun­cil or­ders, with labour depart­ment of­fi­cials fil­ing a law­suit against the com­pany own­ers.

How­ever, mem­bers of the Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil – a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion body cre­ated by the Set­tle­ment of Labour Dis­pute Law – have told The Myan­mar Times that both work­ers and em­ploy­ers reg­u­larly vi­o­late pro­vi­sions of Myan­mar’s labour laws with im­punity.

The rough draft of the amend­ments adds a jail penalty to the Labour Dis­pute Law, said Myan­mar In­dus­tries, Crafts and Services (MICS) vice chair U Naw Aung. The Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion draft law al­lows for unions to form freely.

With jail penal­ties in place, em­ploy­ers will be more in­cen­tivised to fol­low the rules, U Naw Aung said.

Labour and Im­mi­gra­tion Min­istry per­ma­nent sec­re­tary U Myo Aung claims, how­ever, that the dis­putes are born from a lack for trust be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees and a lack of clar­ity in some para­graphs of the their em­ployee con­tracts. There­fore, he said, it may be that only a few sec­tions of the law will re­quire amend­ments.

Myan­mar Gar­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ing As­so­ci­a­tion chair U Myint Soe said his as­so­ci­a­tion is will­ing to dis­cuss amend­ments to some labour laws but he urged the min­istry to keep in mind for­eign in­vest­ment when en­act­ing a jail penalty be­cause it could clash with the norms of the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund and the ILO.

“Things need to be clearer and we need more dis­cus­sion be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees,” he said.

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