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Labour unrest looms in Myanmar
06
May '15
Labour groups in Myanmar are threatening country-wide strikes if negotiations for minimum wages do not offer results by the end of this month. They are also contemplating voting against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party if it doesn’t stand up for the rights and fair pay of workers, say media reports.

Discontent over minimum wages and overtime payments has fuelled tension particularly in the garment industry, with a number of strikes so far this year. A May Day march by workers from the Yangon industrial region was the latest in a series of protest. Workers are demanding a minimum wage of 5600 Kyats ($5).

“The government needs to address the vital requirements of its labourers with fixed minimum wages. The elections are very close and we surely cannot vote for a party that has not taken action for us,” said U Htey, a member of the Labour Affairs Action Network and one of the May Day demonstrators.

In a May Day address to the nation seemingly aimed at the demonstrating workers, President U Thein Sein promised the government has been working on a sustainable workplace strategy that will benefit both the employers and the workers. He also blamed the workers’ protests for slowing down the process, telling the picketers that their actions “hurt” national output, their families’ safety and foreign investment.

Myanmar's labour ministry is trying to get a proposed figure for the national minimum wage out of the negotiation and submit to the parliament for debate and approval. The minimum wage is expected to be announced in the months ahead, one of the reports said.

Parliament speaker U Shwe Mann suggested both employers and workers consider the daily wage level of 3,000 Kyats (about $3) for government employees set by the ministry of finance and revenue as a standard for setting the minimum wage level for workers.

The current minimum daily wage levels range from 900 Kyats to 1, 300 Kyats in industrial zones. Workers say the current minimum wage is simply not enough.

“We have to pay at least K35,000 for accommodation and also spend K25,000 on meals for the month. These are bare minimum costs. Sometimes we have to spend more for health and other expenses. If we do not receive at least K5000 for minimum wages we are not able to cover our living costs properly,” a May Day protestor said.

According to the rules and by-laws of the Minimum Wage Law, the minimum wage level can be amended within two years after its announcement.

The Minimum Wage Law was enacted in March 2013 and the government approved the related by-laws in July 2013. (SH)

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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