YANGON – More than 4,500 workers from 50 garment factories in Myanmar recently demonstrated demanding that the newly revised law on settlement of labour disputes be implemented. 4,000 workers in the Hlaing Thar Yar district and 600 workers in the Kyauk Tan district voiced protests over the lack of implementation of the amended law, which was passed in June this year. Two union leaders, Kyi Thi Win and Shane Thu, were fired from Prosperity Knitting factory in June, as they were setting up of a basic labour organisation in the factory.
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Local unions are demanding the immediate reinstatement of the two union leaders and effective implementation of the new law.
“This is a violation of workers’ rights,” said Khaing Zar,
Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM)president and IndustriALL executive committee member. “We have exhausted all institutional channels like the labour department, the township conciliation body and Ministry of Labour, but the government is turning a deaf ear to this serious violation of workers’ right.”
According to Article 23 of the revised law on settling labour disputes, a dispute between an employer and a worker will be handled by the labour department or the court. In the previous dispute settlement mechanism a township conciliation body acted as the mediator.
“The case of the union leaders fired in June clearly shows that the authorities are not upholding the law and reinstating unfairly dismissed workers. We are calling on the government to enforce the amendment of the law and recognise workers’ right to organise and form a union,” Khaing Zar added.
The demonstrations follow closely on the back of a the publication of a recent UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the country urged the international community to sever ties with Myanmar’s military and the vast web of companies it controls and relies on. The Mission’s report exposes two of Myanmar’s most opaque enterprises, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) – both owned and influenced by senior military leaders. Supplier lists of brands show that those sourcing from factories within MEHL-owned industrial zones in Yangon include Next, Bestseller, H&M, Marks & Spencer, C&A and Esprit.