Labour group decries country’s record on unions, worker rights

Myanmar is among 24 countries that have very bad records on supporting labour unions and the right of workers to form unions, officials of the Confederation of Trade Union Myanmar said.

Daw Phyo Sandar Soe, assistant secretary of the group, said this was one of the conclusions of the recent 107th International Labour Conference in Geneva.

The conference noted that the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organise Convention, which Myanmar ratified in 1955, is poorly implemented in the country.

The committee on application of the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) expressed regret that despite the long time since Myanmar ratified the convention, there has been no improvement in implementing the convention.

During the conference, the Myanmar delegates discussed the plight of workers in the country who try to organise unions. They told the conference that union leaders are fired and there are many ways that management tries to break unions, which do not get enough protection from the government, according to Daw Phyo Sandar Soe.

U Maung Muang, chair of the confederation, told the conference there are few opportunities for workers to organise as management always takes measures to break unions.

“Leaders of unions have been fired by employers and there is no way to protect them. The unions are forbidden to exercise their rights under the peaceful assembly and peaceful procession law,” he said.

The confederation said that although there are over 2000 labour unions in the country, the total number of their members is only 0.6 percent of the national workforce.

The Myanmar delegates said the right to organise unions is weak because the leaders of the union can be fired. If unions are weak, there is no association to stand up for labour rights, said Daw Phyo Sandar Soe.

Despite the unions’ problems, U Nay Lin Aung, assistant secretary of the Myanmar Industries Craft and Services Trade Union Federation expressed confidence that things will get better for the unions.

“I believe the union movement will be strong in the future,” he said without elaborating.

The confederation and the federation were among the organisations from Myanmar that were represented at the conference, which was held from May 28 to June 8.

Daw Khaing Zar Aung, central executive committee member of the confederation, urged the ILO to help workers convince the government to implement the convention.

The conference discussed four key issues about the weak implementation of the convention in Myanmar – amendment of the labour law and peacefully assembly law, discrimination in the workplace, and problems in special economic zones. The labour federations as well as governments and employers from the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and Portugal backed the Myanmar representatives’ discussion of issues at the conference.

The representatives had worked to get the convention agenda tabled at the conference since March 2017. They met with international trade union confederation law experts and submitted to the ILO 29 cases and five significant cases related to violations of the rights of labour unions in the country.

President U Win Myint, during his speech after he was sworn in as the new country leader in March, vowed to improve the lot of the basic sectors in the society, including the workers.

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has been criticised by the labour sector for not doing enough to protect the country’s milions of workers.

Source : Myanmar Times

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