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Myanmar union calls for paid stay-at-home leave

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30 March, 2020Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) is calling on employers to accept a one-month shutdown of factories to help prevent an outbreak of the corona virus, while workers are paid the minimum wage.

Since February, IWFM, together with the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), has been negotiating with employer representatives on the lack of raw materials.

The pandemic has caused a halt of production of raw materials in China, resulting in the closure of 44 garment factories and 22,000 workers laid-off.

“We have put various demands forward, like stay-at-home leave with minimum wage from 1 to 30 April, wage subsidies for workers who have contracted Covid-19 where 60 per cent should be paid by the social security fund and 40 per cent by employers, but the government rejected our proposals outright,”

says Khaing Zar, IWFM president.

Employers had proposed that garment workers take unpaid leave throughout the shutdown period, but both the government and unions disagreed. Other measures like deferment of social security fund, electricity subsidy and soft loans for businesses have not been finalized yet.

Khaing Zar admits that negotiations are tough and it is an ongoing process to explore viable solutions, but workers are really worried about going to work as there are 10 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Myanmar.

“For IWFM and CTUM, we have started to restrict our movement and use technology for communication, with online discussions with union leaders on how to support workers in the event of layoffs,”

says Khaing Zar.