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Global unions urge ILO to invoke Article 33 on Myanmar

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11 June, 2024Yesterday global unions, trade union activists and delegates in attendance at the 112th International Labour Conference (ILC), in Geneva, gathered at the Broken Chair to call on the International Labour Organization(ILO) to invoke Article 33 of its constitution as the military junta ruiling Myanmar for more than three years has failed to carry out the recommendations given after an ILO Commission of Inquiry found serious violations of Forced Labour and Freedom of Association protocols.

“What do we want? Article 33! When do we want it? Now!” was the slogan delegates chanted at the demonstration. 
Article 33 empowers the ILO to take action when a member state fails to comply with recommendations from the ILO's Commission of Inquiry. Specifically, Article 33 states that in cases where a member does not fulfill the recommendations, the Governing Body may recommend to the ILC measures of a punitive or corrective nature, including sanctions or other actions, to secure compliance.

Khaing Zar Aung, president of IndustriALL affiliate the Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), said:

“I have stood here so many times calling for an end to the military junta in Myanmar. You know the crisis. Our people are not safe, especially the youth. We are losing jobs. We can’t survive. The aid that is meant for the people is going through military systems and it is not reaching the people who need it most. We need the international community to intervene. We need article 33 so that we can protect the people.”

Luc Triangle, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said:

“We are clear that the military has to leave. We have to respect human rights and restore freedom. The military junta needs to be isolated. We will get article 33.”

Myanmar’s trade unions have said that the banning of their organizations, and the absence of freedom of association, means workers face conditions of modern slavery. This finding was confirmed by the ILO Commission of inquiry, which reported far-reaching violations of freedom of association and forced labour Conventions. This means that clothing made in conditions of modern slavery is being sold to consumers. 

IndustriALL general secretary, Atle Høie, said:

“Tomorrow we will take Khaing Zar to receive this year's Arthur Svensson Prize for her incredible work for trade union rights in Myanmar and her fight for a return to democracy to the country. We hope that this prize sheds more light on the catastrophic situation for workers in Myanmar under the military junta and contribute to its downfall. We need the international community to react. We need to invoke article 33 now. We will all fight for the freedom, prosperity and liberty for all in Myanmar.”

The military regime has killed more than 4,000 people, arrested almost 26,000, and suspended civil society organizations, including free trade unions. Many state employees, including 200,000 teachers, refused to work for the regime and joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. Many were killed or imprisoned, while others have lost their jobs and are experiencing extreme hardship.