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Myanmar must reform labour laws to end union busting

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7 June, 2019Twenty-five unionists from the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) and the Mining Workers Federation of Myanmar (MWFM) converged in Yangon on 17-18 May 2019 for a mid-term meeting of the union building project.

They shared their views on topical issues such as law reform, minimum wage and collective bargaining. More activities and organizing targets were identified at the meeting.

Group work

Myanmar trade union leaders vowed to fight for the closure of a loopholes in the labour law to help end union busting and defend workers’ right to organize. A two-prong strategy was formulated to achieve the aim: to double lobbying efforts and build up capacity for unionized workers.

The IWFM president Ma Khaing Zar Aung complained that numerous union leaders were dismissed by their employers before they received registration certificates from the government. Owing to shortcomings in the current Labour Organization Law of 2011, union leaders’ right to organize is not protected until a trade union is officially registered.

Ma Khaing Zar Aung

 “We must eliminate anti-union discrimination. IWFM is working closely with the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM) to present our proposed amendments to the government, including the protection of union leaders in the process of forming a union.

“The Myanmar parliament passed the Settlement of Labour Dispute Law 2012 (Amendment) in May 2019, which increased the penalty for unfair labour practice from 1 million kyat (US $656.5) to 10 million kyat (US $6565). The government will impose a penalty on employers if they failed to present at the Dispute Settlement Arbitration Council,” 

said Khaing Zar.

President of CTUM Maung Maung said the confederation has been actively lobbying government leaders to reform the labour laws. There have been some successes, but not 100 per cent. He was dissatisfied that civil servants were excluded from the mechanism, but nevertheless glad that individual worker dispute has been included in the conciliation process.

Maung Maung

“We are here today to assess the successes and challenges of our two affiliates IWFM and MWFM. We recognise the difficulties and review our strategies from time to time to overcome it,”

said Annie Adviento, the regional secretary of IndustriALL Southeast Asia Office.

Annie Adviento

Project sponsors FES, FNV and SASK, including Finnish Trade Union Pro, also participated in the meeting.