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Myanmar mining unions set safety goal

15 July, 2015Mining unions in Myanmar have resolved to set up health and safety committees at every mining operation in the country, following a joint IndustriALL Global Union workshop on 10 to 12 July in the city of Monywa, Sagaing. 

Thirty trade unionists, including eight women, took part in the first-ever workshop on occupational health and safety (OHS) in mining, a collaborative initiative between IndustriALL, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) and IndustriALL affiliate, the Mining Workers Federation of Myanmar (MWFM).

The trade unionists also agreed to capacity building and training to ensure effective functioning of the OSH committees, which will play a key role in communicating health and safety advice at the mine sites.

“Myanmar is undergoing economic and political reform. Occupational health and safety is an important issue. We need to create a safe environment to work in,” said Maung Maung, President of CTUM.   

Htin Aung, Deputy Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, and Than Htaik, Sagaing Region’s Minister of Mining and Forestry, attended the inauguration of the meeting and welcomed the initiative:

“The Factory Act exists, but at the moment there is no specific (health and safety) law for the mining and construction industry in Myanmar,” said Aung.

The mining industry in Myanmar employs more than 100,000 workers.  According to the MWFM, which has nearly 4,000 members, one Chinese run-copper mine in Letpaduang employs around 3,000 workers alone.

At present, there is no minimum wage in the mining industry in Myanmar and workers’ pay varies according to their job function and productivity level.   

The workshop participants also agreed to reach out to unorganized mining sites to extend union coverage and protection to sub-contracted workers, daily workers and small-scale miners.

Regular health check-ups, provision of personal protective equipment for all the workers working in the mines and other preventive measures were also part of the discussion and union proposals.  

On the national level, MWFM and CTUM are committed to advocating for ratification of ILO Convention 176 on health and safety in mining.    

Speaking at the end of the workshop, MWFM President, Thaung Nyunt, said:

“On behalf of MWFM, we express our deepest appreciation for this meaningful initiative which is the first step for progressive development in Myanmar.

“We need knowledge and information from international experts and we are committed to putting into practice what we have learned so that we can improve the working environment at the mine sites. The ILO Convention No. 176 is essential for developing health and safety in mines, and we are hopeful that it will be ratified by the government soon.”