GENEVA – The International Labour Organisation needs to stop “micro-managing” internal labour laws in Myanmar, says the country’s leading garment sector business body. The head of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has also accused unions of stirring up trouble in the country’s garment sector.
The MGMA’s secretary general, Daw Khine Khine Nwe, attended the 107th ILO Conference in Geneva this week and came out fighting after Myanmar had been named among 24 countries to come under scrutiny by the International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) for alleged violations of international labour Conventions.
Responding to the CAS allegations, she said: “The Labour Organisation Law of Myanmar, in align with Convention 87, provides establishment of labor organisations as well as rights and responsibilities of labor organisations.
“The country knows best, the needs of our society based on the culture and customs of the country.
“CAS (Committee on Application of Standards) shouldn’t be micro- managing the country’s internal legislation. After all, Article 8 of Convention 87 clearly stated that ‘In exercising the rights for, in this Convention, workers and employers and their representative organisations, like other persons or organised collectivities, shall respect the law of the land.’”
Myanmar’s garment sector has been criticised for failing to come into line with internationally accepted standards on labour rights issues in its garment sector, in areas such as worker representation.
But Daw Khine Khine New said unions themselves are the problem. She added: “The right of union members under Myanmar law to engage in a legal industrial action is noted. But union members carried out strikes using illegal tactics. One of the main tactics used is to fully and completely block the entrance to a factory compound. These blockades are in violation of Myanmar law and international best practice. They inevitably result in physical confrontation, which has happened repeatedly in Myanmar. These violent encounters have included instances where unionists assaulted factory management and other, non-union workers.
“There must be ways and solutions to deter these actions, through tripartite dialogues, and the government must enforce them or else industrial relations and rule of law will be undermined. The anarchy that currently characterises industrial actions taken by union is not in accordance with the laws of Myanmar is not conducive to positive labor relations.”
Daw Khine Khine New also noted that earlier this month, more than 30 foreign investors in the manufacturing sector called a press conference in which they claimed industrial unrest could deter would-be investors in Myanmar.