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Myanmar unions win first minimum wage

2 July, 2015Three years after unions were made legal in Myanmar, their fight for a minimum wage delivered a victory on 29 June. The country’s first-ever minimum wage of 3,600 kyatts per day is equal to US$3.2.

The union demand had been 4,000 kyatts per day, while employers lobbied for 2,500 kyatts. Government’s proposal of 3,600 has been accepted by the unions and will be signed into law following a two-month period for comments. 

The figure is based on an eight-hour working day and has national coverage. While final clarification is needed on workers’ entitlement to paid leave, the new minimum wage is higher than the US$68 monthly wage of Bangladesh. Employers are still lobbying for the right not to pay workers for Sundays.

The minimum wage will be applicable for workplaces with at least 15 employees. The union demand had been for the wage to apply to workplaces with 5 employees, and that demand will remain in the evaluation of the minimum wage after 12 months.

The decision follows one year of negotiations between the government, employers and unions.

Indications are that workers in Economic Processing Zones will be paid more than the new minimum.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina welcomed the news:

I told Myanmar’s Labour Minister in March this year that a minimum wage in line with a living wage was of paramount importance. This country’s workers are impatient for justice at the workplace, and that starts with a decent wage, reasonable working hours and the right to join a union.

Khaing Zar Aung, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL’s affiliate Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), earlier this year told IndustriALL that the average wage of US$100 per month was only attainable by working 12 to 16 hours a week overtime on top of the standard 44 to 46 hour working week.

The salary is so low that the workers are suffering – we demand basic wages and proper working hours.

In December 2014 two trade unions from Myanmar joined IndustriALL Global Union. After unions were made legal in 2012, the international union movement has supported workers in Myanmar in organizing and training.