Workers protest union member dismissals
FACTORY workers in Mandalay yesterday protested recent dismissals of a number of union members in what they claim was an attempt to dismantle the influence of labour unions in their workplaces.
More than 150 workers from the Sein Kabar textile factory and labourers from the Fu Xing Brothers company staged a demonstration demanding the reinstatement of their dismissed colleagues. Over the course of a week, 10 union members were dismissed from the Sein Kabar factory.
“The dismissal of union members is an attempt to demolish the unions. [The employers] have no solid reason for dismissing these workers. The Ministry of Labour should intervene,” said U Thet Hnin Aung, member of the Myanmar Industries, Crafts and Services (MICS) Trade Union Federation.
“Workers are worried employers will act exploitatively as they know that jobs are hard to find,” he added.
Along with calls for the reinstatement of the Sein Kabar employees, the protesting workers demanded changes to what they deemed as anti-union policies at Fu Xing Brothers company, as well as more serious penalties for employers who break the law, including jail time and operating bans.
The workers said that the current system of labour dispute settlement is ineffective because it is too easy for employers to ignore the arbitration council rulings as the penalties for defying the orders are low.
Currently, workers who are unfairly dismissed can lodge a complaint with the relevant arbitration body. If their claim is valid, the arbitration council may order the employer to rehire them. If the employer does not do so, they may be fined up to K1 million.
“Employers are fined K1,000,000 if they [improperly] dismiss the workers according to the Labour Disputes Law. K1,000,000 is nothing for them. However, for workers, job security is seriously affected,” said U Nya Lin Aung, chief executive officer from Dagon Soe Moe 3 Basic Labourers Organisation.
Laws governing labour disputes have been in force in Myanmar since 1929 and have been amended numerous times by various governments. The latest iteration of the law was born from a 2014 amendment to the 2012 Labour Disputes law. – Translation by Khine Thazin Han and San Lay