Thursday, 14 November 2019

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Burma badly needs trade unions for workers

New Delhi (Mizzima) – For workers in Burma the need of the hour is trade unions to protect labour rights and help provide social security, Burmese workers unions in exile said.

The Mae Sot based Yaungchi Oo workers' organization and Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB) were reacting  to the recent strikes by workers in Tayi footwear factory, Kyarmin, OPAL 2 (or) Mya Fashion garment factories in Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone No. 3 in Burma.

"Burma lacks a proper social security system and there are no guarantees for workers, whereas there should be a contract between employer and employee. But there are no such contracts in some factories. Neither are there trade unions to protect labour rights or fight for it.  In the absence of trade unions in Burma, small problems snowball unnecessarily creating social unrest like the one that occurred," Yaungchi Oo General Secretary Moe Swe told Mizzima.

FTUB general secretary Maung Maung said, "Some employers say that each worker earns Kyat 48,000 per month, working without holiday and without being absent. These factory owners exploit the situation because of the absence of trade unions in Burma."

Tai Yi footwear factory workers staged a sit-in strike yesterday with 10 demands – implementing holidays, enough time to rest, to increase the bonus quantam by Kyat 2,000 annually, increasing bonus for daily attendance without absence to Kyat 6,000 from the existing Kyat 3,000, increasing overtime to Kyat 150 from Kyat 55, increasing daily earnings to Kyat 75 from Kyat 25, among others.

The workers of Mya Fashion (OPAL 2) garment factory struck work from February 8 to 10 after the factory management increased the wages of supervisors by Kyat 10,000 but did not raise those of workers. The workers demanded reduction of working hours from the existing 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and keeping their workplace and dining hall clean and hygienic.

Military Region Commander Col. Tint Sann, District Peace and Development Council (DPDC) Chairman Ne Linn, Labour Department Director General Chit Shein rushed to the factory with security forces and intervened.

Thakin (master) Lay Maung and Thakin Ba spearheaded forming the 'All Burma Trade Unions Congress' (ABTUC) in 1940 and could settle labour disputes and other problems. But during the Japanese occupation, the administration banned forming of labour associations.

After World War II, a labour association called the 'Trade Union Congress of Burma' (TUCB) was formed in 1945. But after Gen. Ne Win grabbed power in a coup in 1962, the military regime did not allow associations and trade unions to function. They only allowed workers and farmers associations under their control.

When allowed freedom trade unions can become powerful organizations in settling disputes between employers and employees, fight for labour rights and occupational issues.

Since there are no such free unions and organizations, there are many organizations representing different strata of society in Burma such as workers, farmers, human rights workers, students, and women, which are operating secretly as underground outfits. But they are not competent in tackling issues.

(Edited by Ye Yint Aung)


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