Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Low wages and the garment sector

The Wall Street Journal reports on emerging businesses in Myanmar, with low wages serving as a potential magnet for foreign capital investment in the garment sector.

Myanmar's garment industry, which once employed 250,000 people, according to Mr. Myint Soe, has struggled under U.S. sanctions forbidding the import of most goods. Many workers fled across the border to Thailand to work in factories there.

But there are signs of a renaissance. Apparel exports to Japan and South Korea have more than tripled, to $530 million in 2011 from $162 million in 2008, according to trade data tracker Global Trade Information Services. The gradual easing of some sanctions by the European Union and the U.S. could bring back global clothing brands attracted by Myanmar's inexpensive labor force. Wages rival those in neighboring Bangladesh, considered among the lowest in the world.

Trafficking and deportation in Thailand

The Nation reports on trafficking and abuse of Myanmar workers in Thailand.

Labour exploitation, human trafficking and bondage of migrant workers from Burma continues in Samut Sakhon's shrimp-processing factories and onboard trawlers despite the passing of an anti-human-trafficking law nearly four years ago, said Sompong Srakaew, founder and director of Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN).

Exactly how many workers are trapped in bondage inside shrimp factories or lured and forced to work on deep-sea fishing trawlers is unknown. But, Sompong, who worked in this area for eight years, estimates about 30 per cent of the 400,000-plus Burmese workers in the province are exploited beyond Thai laws.

Bosses confiscate work permits, temporary passports and identity cards so that Burmese in fish-processing factories cannot seek employment elsewhere. Worse still, some are held in small factories and not allowed to leave the compound and forced to work like slaves.

DVB reports on the threat of deportation facing about a million Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand who lack temporary passports or other documentation.

Up to one million Burmese migrants face deportation if they fail to complete Thailand’s national verification procedure by 14 June, human rights campaigners warn, with the stateless Rohingya seen as particularly vulnerable.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Myanmar language reporting on the Tai Yi strike

The Irrawaddy Burmese version reports on the Tai Yi strike in Hlaing Thar Yar.

ရန္ကုန္တုိင္း လႈိင္သာယာ စက္မႈဇံုရွိ တပတ္ခန္႔ၾကာျမင့္သည့္ တုိင္ရီ ဖိနပ္စက္႐ုံ အလုပ္သမား ေထာင္ခ်ီ ဆႏၵျပမႈႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္ ၍ အလုပ္သမား၀န္ႀကီးဌာနညႊန္ၾကားေရးမႉးခ်ဳပ္က အလုပ္ရွင္ႏွင့္ အလုပ္သမားကုိယ္စားလွယ္မ်ားကို ညွိႏႈိင္းေျဖရွင္းေပးေသာ္ လည္း ေအာင္ျမင္မႈ မရရွိေသးေၾကာင္း သတင္းရရွိသည္။

Myanmar women workers in Ruili

Mizzima reports on the conditions of women from Myanmar working in the Chinese border town of Riuli.

The Chinese border town of Ruili is booming – party because of Burmese working women – but the jobs are often hazardous, low paying and Burmese workers have no legal rights... there are more than 100,000 Burmese workers in Ruili, most with low salaries and no workers’ rights or health care.


The [Burmese Women's Union] has urged the Chinese government and local authorities in Yunnan Province to pay Burmese workers fair wages, to provide work permits, suitable health care and to let Burmese organize workers’ organizations."

Dawei industrial zone as migrant 'push' factor

The UN's news outlet IRIN reports that construction of the Dawei industrial zone is displacing local rural residents, many of whom have decided to move to Thailand as a result.

A development spree in Myanmar following recent political reforms may have hidden costs for rural dwellers, especially ethnic minorities, say analysts.

Speaking at a recent conference in Yangon on inclusive growth, former World Bank president and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz warned that Myanmar risked becoming "a rich country with poor people", as quoted in local media.


"Others in the village are also talking about moving to Thailand," she [a Myanmar migrant worker in Thailand] added. "People in the area [of Dawei] are very worried about their future. Right now buildings are mushrooming. They are accelerating the building."

Saturday, 25 February 2012

More on the Tai Yi slipper factory strike

In an article on the ongoing strike at the Tai Yi slipper factory in Hlaing Thar Yar Foreign Policy quotes activist Phoe Phyu stating

"This could be the biggest labor strike since oil workers went on strike and marched in protest against the Burma Oil Company and British colonial rule in 1938... More than 90 percent of the workers joined the strike."

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Unemployment in Myanmar

This post presents an article from 7 Day News, February 23, 2012, p.11.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

ITUC delegation visits Myanmar

According to a Phophtaw News article from February 18, a delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has visited Myanmar.

ITUC delegation, in its first ever visit to Burma, met with Trade Unions who had applied for registration, met with released FTUB members, NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Bago divsion NLD leader U Myat Hla and Ministry of Labor.A delegation from the ITUC visited Burma on 12th to 16th of February 2012.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Problems for union registration

I'm re-posting here an illuminating article from The Huffington Post December 21st, 2011 detailing the challenges faced by those seeking to register unions following the October 2011 legalisation of labour union formation in Myanmar. This article draws on a related article from Mizzima concerining the rejection of an application to form a union.

The Ministry of Labour said the application was unacceptable noting that President Thein Sein had not yet signed a notification that is required to put the new law into force and a chief registrar had not yet been appointed.

"They (authorities) just said they could not accept (the application)," trade union spokesman San Maung told Mizzima. "According to the law, it should not be like that.... According to the Constitution, the law must come into force as soon as the president signed it."

Tai Yi footwear factory strike

Mizzima has posted an article today about 1,800+ workers at the Tai Yi footwear factory in Hlaing Thar Yar going on strike.

More than 1,800 workers from the Tai Yi factory began their strike on Monday.

“The New Way factory started their protest today [Thursday],” said lawyer Pho Phyu, who works on labour related issues. “The factory officials came and negotiated with the workers but have not yet resolve the problem. Tai Yi is continuing its protest, and they will stage a strike tomorrow too. A lot of workers joined the protest.”

The workers at the New Way factory have also submitted a range of issues, including more pay, overtime pay, a bonus for no absences, and the granting of sick leave. Currently, workers are penalized 4,000 kyat (US$ 5) per day for sick leave.