Thursday, 26 April 2012

Challenges for the new migrant worker scheme and minimum wage increase

Mahidol University's Andy Hall has an op-ed on new the Thai-Myanmar intergovernmental plan to send 200,000 new Myanmar migrant workers to Thailand, which I reproduce here in full:
The Thai government seeks a deal with Myanmar to import 200,000 workers. But surely not until the lessons are learnt and the memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Myanmar becomes safe, cost effective, respects the human rights of migrants and contributes to genuine development of Myanmar. Whilst the MOU process is commendable as a measure to overcome challenges associated with irregular migration, both the Myanmar and Thai governments should urgently halt the process due to systematic rights violations so as to allow re-evaluation of the process to address the weaknesses in its existing implementation. Individuals/agents involved in the MOU process should be regulated through a transparent system of accountability, registration and supervision. Costs of the MOU process should be significantly reduced and Thai employers should bear financial responsibility rather than shifting the burden to workers, as required by the model employment contract. Effective recruitment of workers should be undertaken using public awareness raising in Myanmar and amongst existing Myanmar migrants and their communities in Thailand. Information campaigns for the general public and pre-departure training for departing migrants should be implemented to ensure workers understand employment contracts, costs and the general situation in Thailand. Workers' temporary passports, Thai work permits, Myanmar ID cards and Myanmar labour cards should not be confiscated by anyone, as these are the property of the worker. Migrants entering Thailand legally should not have their residence status tied only to one employer, and they should be allowed to change employers to prevent forced labour conditions arising. No restrictions should be placed on the freedom of movement of migrants legally coming into Thailand The MOU process should be made simpler and quicker to avoid long waiting time for migrants at borders, and alternatives to using border areas only should be considered to reduce cost and distance travelled. All workers should be given their employment contract in a language they understand, and its contents should be properly explained to them before signing. Myanmar should provide effective consular services to migrants in Thailand and advertise this assistance. Arrangements should be made between both countries to avoid multiple health checks. Once regular migration becomes more cost effective, comfortable and safer than irregular migration, only then will the aims of the MOU between Myanmar and Thailand be genuinely met. And only then should the MOU process recommence.
Separately, Phuket Wan a local news site based in Phuket, reports some interesting local tidbits related to the recent increase in Phuket's minimum wage to 300 baht/day:
Any serious disgruntlement among Phuket's estimated 200,000 Burmese workers is likely to surface on Monday, when monthly pay for all employees is due to reflect the new 300 baht daily minimum wage for the first time. Phuket and six Bangkok-centred provinces are pioneering the new national daily rate, which was introduced on April 1 and will spread to other provinces before 2013. ... If legal Burmese workers were free to change employers quickly, a drift could be expected from the neighboring provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi to better-paid employment on Phuket. However, contacts in the Burmese community say that it's not unusual for Burmese construction workers to already be paid 250 baht a day. No flow-on pay rise is expected in the Thai fishing industry, where human trafficking, slave labor and rights abuses are frequently reported. Kittipong Laonipong, Director of the Department of Labor Ptotection and Welfare on Phuket, said that illegal Burmese workers in other provinces could certainly be eyeing jobs on Phuket - but only if employers paid their illegal workers the new legal minimum. Police and Immigration officials would have to intervene and enforce the law if such a trend became discernable, he said. Many illegal workers on Phuket pay bribes to stay here. Htoo Chit, the region's spokesperson for Burmese workers, says he does not expect to see a rapid change in the relationship between Phuket employers and their workers. ''Many Burmese are delighted at the new approaches being shown by the government back in Burma,'' he said. ''But for most, there are not enough new jobs being created there to think about going back yet.''

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Death by suffocation of migrant workers in Thailand

The recent death by suffocation of two Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand, while in a police detention vehicle on their way to deportation has received news coverage in Myanmar language, but little coverage in English.  The following is a brief article from The Nation on the incident.
Myanmar labor leader Mojo, who is based in Tak province, said he was very concerned about the death of two illegal migrant workers who died while being deported back to their country.The workers Mong Zo and Meela suffocated to death because the truck they were in was far too crowded and was traveling a very long distance from Songkhla to Tak. Mojo said the Myanmar labor union was very upset about the deaths and wanted Thai authorities to take responsibility even though the victims were illegal migrants. He added that this was a human rights violation and that he would take the case to the United Nation's International Labor Organization and the Thai human rights commission.

A workplace organising comic

A short comic of workers' self-organisation at a garment factory. Click on the images to enlarge.
(Thanks to PT for the illustrations.)

More on the push and pull of migrant workers

An Irrawaddy report provides a critical take on the recent Myanmar-Thai intergovernmental meeting on migrant labour and the plan to send 200,000 new Myanmar workers to Thailand:
"The Burmese government is negotiating to supply workers to help alleviate high unemployment at home while easing a labor shortage in its eastern neighbor... Some human rights and labor activist groups believe the deal being hatched between the Burmese and Thai labor ministries has more to do with the Bangkok government’s decision to increase the minimum wage for Thai workers than any real labor shortage. Bizarrely, it also comes as some Thai firms are considering moving their production to Burma to cut costs... The higher wage of 300 baht (US$9.75) a day came into force in Bangkok and some other areas on April 1, and on April 20 Thai Labor Minister Padermchai Sasomsap said it would be extended across the country by the end of this year. “There isn’t really a labor shortage in Thailand, but there is a shortage of people prepared to work for peanuts,” a human rights activist in Bangkok told The Irrawaddy this weekend. “In the present circumstances of continuing abuse of Burmese workers already in Thailand and a possible revival of Burma’s own economy, it’s hard to understand why the Burmese government would go along with this new mass cross-border labor agreement.”  Burma and Thailand still have to meet again in May to finalize their new cross-border labor plan. The Thai authorities have promised to increase documentation for migrant workers which will supposedly give them better legal status and prevent abuse.
A separate Irrawaddy article reiterates the expectation that a removal of economic sanctions on Myanmar will lead to a significant growth in garment sector jobs. Also, last year DVD ran an interesting article discussing whether and how an increase in Thailand's minimum wage would affect Myanmar migrants. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The push and pull of Myanmar migrant workers

A recently reported Thai-Myanmar inter-governmental initiative seeks to recruit 200,000 Myanmar workers for work in Thailand. Regarding this initiative:
Proposals to safeguard workers rights include having contracts that could be revoked or ended after six months on mutual consent if Thai bosses abuse their Burmese workers physically, the employer dies or the business finishes, or the employer violates the Thai Lab our Law... “We hope that all undocumented workers from Myanmar in Thailand can become documented, so they can escape exploitation,” [Myanmar Deputy Minister for Labor] Myint Thein said... The deputy minister added that the Thai authorities would reduce the visa fee for Burmese migrants from 2,000 to 500 baht, and said that the Thais agreed to allow children and dependents of migrants to be issued with a new certificate of identity.
The Bangkok Port also quotes Mytint Thein as saying that "migrant labour conditions [in Thailand are] slowly improving," adding that "With industrial development still some years off in Myanmar, Nyapyidaw's concern at present is to ensure that migrant workers receive standard rights protection, because their remittances have helped shape the growing economy." However, the Bangkok Post reports that "Many Burmese migrant workers in Thailand likely to return to their homeland & families as economy in Burma improves after EU & US sanctions end." This article includes a number of other interesting tid-bits:
Minimum wages in Myanmar were increased this month, doubling from 1,500 baht to 3,000 baht a month to reflect the higher cost of living. This compares to about 5,100 baht in Vietnam and 2,700 baht in Cambodia, said the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI). The FTI estimates 3.5 million Myanmar migrant workers are living in Thailand, compared with a combined 200,000 from Cambodia and Laos. "We have started seeing some Myanmar workers returning home partly because Thai companies have relocated production to Myanmar. Several infrastructure projects are being developed there and they require a lot of workers," said FTI vice-chairman Tanit Sorat. Supachai Manusphaibool, managing director of MR&TS consultancy, said hundreds of Thai garment and footwear factories have already moved to areas near the Myanmar border, such as Myawaddy, to lower costs after the Thai minimum wage hike. There is also a demand for workers from jewellery factories in Myanmar, Mr Supachai added. Nonetheless, Mr Supachai and Mr Tanit ruled out an exodus of Myanmar workers from Thailand given the current difference in minimum wages. "The minimum wage in Myanmar is still one-fourth of Thailand's. I think it might be five years before we see a significant number of Myanmar workers leaving Thailand," said Mr Tanit. Some Myanmar migrant workers remain cautious about the economic outlook at home. "I have heard many people saying good things about the Myanmar economy over the next three years, but I find it hard to believe," said Sa Sa Su, who has worked in Thailand for eight years as a maid and now receives 300 baht a day. "I will be glad visiting home sometimes but not going back there permanently," said the 33-year-old.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Did dictatorship discredit leftist ideology in Myanmar?

If you're having trouble displaying the font in the text below, a PDF of the text can be downloaded here.

အာဏာရှင်စနစ်သည် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင် လက်ဝဲဝါဒကို ကျဆင်ခဲ့စေသလား။

တစ်ခါတစ်ရံ ကျွန်တော်၏ မိတ်ဆွေများအား “မြန်မာနိုင်ငံမှာ ပြည်သူလုထူက လက်ဝဲဝါဒကို ထောက်ခံလား”လို့ ကျွန်တော် မေးပါသည်။ သူတို့ကား မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင် ဆိုရှယ်လစ်အစိုးရနှင့် လက်ဝဲ နိုင်ငံရေးသမားများ အာဏာရှင်စနစ် ကျင့်သုံးခဲ့ သောကြောင့် ပြည်သူလူထု အများစု လက်ဝဲဝါဒကို မထောက်ခံဘူးလို့ ဖြေခဲ့ပါသည်။ ဤအကြောင်းတွင် နားလည်မှု့ လွဲသည်လို့ ကျွန်တော် ထင်ပါသည်။ ဘာကြောင့်လဲဆိုတော့ လက်ဝဲလို့ ခေါ်သည့်ဝါဒ အမျိုးမျိုးရှိသည် (ဥပမာ - အဏာရှင် ကွန်မြူနစ်၊ အဏာရှင် ဆိုရှယ်လစ်၊ ဆိုရှယ် ဒီမိုကရက်တစ်နှင့် လွတ်လပ်သော ဆိရှယ်လစ်ဝါဒ [libertarian socialism])

သမိုင်းတလျောက်တွင် လက်ဝဲဝါဒီလို့ ခေါ်သည့်အစိုးရနှင့် နိုင်ငံရေး ပါတီများသည် အာဏာရှင်စနစ်ကို ကျင့်သုံတာ မှန်ပါသည်။ သို့ပေမဲ့ ကျွန်တော် အမြင်သည် ဤအစိုးရနှင့် နိုင်ငံရေးပါတီများ လက်ဝဲဝါဒီ စစ်စစ် မဟုတ်ပါ။ လက်ဝဲဝါဒ၏ အဓိကရည်မှန်ချက်သည် ညီမျှခြင်း (တန်းတူရည်တူ) ဖြစ်ပါသည်။ ဒါကြောင့် လူတန်းစား ခွဲခြားခြင်း၊ အနိုင်ကျင့်မှုနှင့် အရင်းရှင်စနစ်တို့ကို ဆန့်ကျင်သည်။ အလားတူ အာဏာရှင်စနစ်အောက်မှာ ခေါင်းဆောင်နှင့် လူထုကြားတွင် ညီမျှခြင်းမရှိပါ။ သို့သောကြောင့် ကွန်မြူနစ်နှင့် ဆိုရှယ်လစ်လို့ ခေါ်သည့်နိုင်ငံများတွင် အာဏာရှင် အစိုးရသည် လူထုကို အနိုင်ကျင့်နိုင်သည်။

ဒါကြောင့် ညီမျှခြင်း စစ်စစ်ရှိသည့် အခြေအနေဆိုတာ ဘာလဲ။ ညီမျှခြင်းစစ်စစ် ရှိသည့် အခြေအနေ့တွင် တရားဝင်ခေါင်းဆောင် မရှိပါ။ လုထုကိုယ်တိုင် သူတို့ရဲ့ အခြေအနေကို စီမံခန့်ခွဲသည်။ ကိုယ်တိုင် စီမံခန့်ခွဲမှုဆိုတာ တိုက်ရိုက် ဒီမိုကရေစီလို့ ခေါ်နိုင်သည်။ အလုပ်ခွင်တွင် အလုပ်သမား ကိုယ်တိုင် စီမံခန့်ခွဲမှုဆိုတာ (workers' self-management) တိုင်ရိုက် ဒီမိုကရေစီလို့ ခေါ်နိုင်သည်။ ရွေးကောက်ပွဲစနစ်ကို သွယ်ဝိုက် ဒီမိုကရေစီလို့ ခေါ်နိုင်သည်။ ရွေးကောက်ပွဲစနစ်အောက်တွင် (သွယ်ဝိုက် ဒီမိုကရေစီ) ခေါင်းဆောင်များသည် ဆုံးဖြတ်ခွင့် ရှိပြီး ခေါင်းဆောင်နှင့် လူထုကြားတွင် ညီမျှခြင်းမရှိပါ။ အမိန့်ပေးသည့် လူအုပ်စုနှင့် အမိန့်နာခံရသည့် လူအုပ်စုဟု ခွဲခြားသွားသည်။ ဤနားလည်မှုသည် လက်ဝဲ အဖွဲ့အတွက် အရေးကြီးသည်။

လောလောဆယ် မြန်​မာပြည်တွင် အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂအသစ်များ တည်ထောင်နေသည်။ အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂများသည် အလုပ်သမားအကျိုးကို အမှန်တကယ်  ဖန်တီးပေးနိုင်ပါ့မလား။ သမဂ္ဂ၏ အစီအမံအပေါ် မူတည်သည်။ အခြားနိုင်ငံ​များတွင် အလုပ်သမားသမဂ္ဂ အများကြီးရှိသည်။ များသောအားဖြင့် ဤသမဂ္ဂများသည် တိုက်ရိုက် ဒီမိုကရေစီကျင့်သုံးသောအဖွဲ့ မဟုတ်ပါ။ ဤသမဂ္ဂတွင် လူကြီးလို့ ခေါ်သည့် ခေါင်းဆောင်သည် အာဏာ ရှိသည်။ တချို့ သမဂ္ဂခေါင်းဆောင်သည် လဘ်စားသည်။ ဤသမဂ္ဂမှ ဝန်ထမ်းများ၏ လစာသည် သာမာန် အလုပ်သမား၏ လစာထက် အဆပေါင်းမျာစွာ ပိုများသည်။ ဤသမဂ္ဂသည် အလုပ်သမားများကို   ကန့်သတ်သည် (ဥပမာ - အလုပ်သမားများအား သပိတ်မှောက်ဖို့ ဆုံးဖြတ်ခွင့် မပြုပါ) ဤသမဂ္ဂများတွင် အဖွဲ့ဝင် အလုပ်သမားများသည် သမဂ္ဂ၏ လုပ်ငန်စဉ်များတွင် ပါဝင်ဆောင်ရွက်မှု သိပ်မရှိပါ

အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂ ဒီမိုကရေစီဆိုတာ (union democracy) အလုပ်သမားများ အတွက် အင်အား တစ်ရပ် အဖြစ် အလွန်အရေး ပါသည်။ အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂ ဒီမိုကရေစီဆိုတာ ရွေးကောက်ပွဲလုပ်ရုံ မဟုတ်ပါ။ အမှန်တကယ် ဒီမိုကရက်တစ် အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂတွင် ဆုံးဖြတ်ခွင့်ရှိသည့်အမှုဆောင်အရာရှိ မရှိပါ။ ရွေးကောက်ခံရသည့် သမဂ္ဂဝန်ထမ်းများမှာ သူတို့၏ ပုံမှန်အလုပ်ကို ဆောင်ရွက်ကြရသည်။ ဆုံးဖြတ်ချက်အတွက် အလုပ်သမား အားလုံးသည် စုပေါင်းဆုံးဖြတ်ရသည်။ ရွေးကောက်ခံရသည့် သမဂ္ဂဝန်ထမ်းများသည် အလုပ်သမားများ၏ ဆုံးဖြတ်ချက်များကို ဆောင်ရွက်ရသည်။ သမဂ္ဂဝန်ထမ်းများသည် အလုပ်သမားများ၏ ဆုံးဖြတ်ချက်များကို မဆောင်ရွက်နိုင်ရင် အဖွဲ့ဝင် အလုပ်သမားများသည် သမဂ္ဂ ဝန်ထမ်းများကို ချက်ချင်း ဖြုတ်ချခွင့် ရှိသည်။

ခိုင်မာသော ဒီမိုကရက်တစ် သမဂ္ဂတွင် အလုပ်သမားများသည် လုပ်ပိုင်ခွင့် အာဏာရှိသည်။ ဒါကြောင့် အလုပ်သမား သမဂ္ဂတွင် ဒီမိုကရေစီဆိုတာ အင်အားဖြစ်သည်ဟု ပြောနိုင်သည်။ သမဂ္ဂတွင် အာဏာရှင်စနစ် မရှိအောင် သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ဝင်များ အမြဲတမ်း ဂရုစိုက် ရသည်။ ဤသို့ဖြင့် အကောင်းဆုံး ဒီမိုကရက်တစ် သမဂ္ဂသည် လူကြီးမဲ့ သမဂ္ဂ ဖြစ်မည်။ ဤသို့ဖြင့် လူတန်းစား ခွဲခြားမှု မရှိသည့် ကမ္ဘာကို လည်းကောင်း၊ အလုပ်ရှင် မရှိသည့် ကမ္ဘာကို လည်းကောင်း ဖြစ်စေချင်သည့် အလုပ်သမားများသည် သူတို့၏သမဂ္ဂတွင် စတင် ဖန်းတီးနိုင်သည်။ ဤသို့ဖြင့် ကျွန်တော်တို့သည် ကမ္ဘာအသစ်ကို ကမ္ဘာအဟောင်အခွံတွင် စတင်ပြီး တည်ဆောက်နိုင်သည်။ အဲဒါပဲ လက်ဝဲဝါဒ စစ်စစ် (လွတ်လပ်သောဆိရှယ်လစ်ဝါဒ) ဖြစ်ပါသည်။

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Myanmar Labour Laws

For reference, I include here a link the Online Burma Library page for "Labour Law and Decrees". The various laws can be downloadable from this page as pdfs in Burmese and English.

Oil field strikes in colonial Burma

This post presents a translation of a passage about the colonial era oil field strikes in Myanmar, taken from page 10 of the April 2012 issue of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association newspaper. This text originally appeared in Yebaw (Comrade) Htun Oo's book The emergence of the working class in Burma and the history of working class activism. The portrait at the top of the page is of Thakin Po Hla Gyi (as represented on the 45 kyat note).

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Myanmar reporting on the Phatthana Seafood factory strike

The Phophtaw News Agency provides this Myanmar language report on the strike by Cambodian and Myanmar workers at the Phatthana Seafood Company factory in Songkla. According to one Myanmar worker quoted in the article:
"စက္႐ုံထဲ ၀င္ဖို႔ႀကိဳးစားတာေလ အလုပ္သမား (၃၀၀) ေလာက္ရွိတယ္။ တံခါးဖြင့္ေပးဖို႔ ေတာင္းဆိုၾကတယ္ သူတို႔က ဖြင့္မေပးဘူး။ အဲဒါနဲ႔ တင္းမာေနတဲ့အခ်ိန္မွာ ထိမ္းသိမ္းရခက္တာေပါ့ အဲဒါသူတို႔ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္ သတိေပးတဲ့ အေနနဲ႔ ေသနတ္နဲ႔ ပစ္ေဖာက္တာ... စာခ်ဳပ္ အတိုင္းေျပာရရင္ေတာ့ ေနေရးထိုင္ေရး၊ အခမ့ဲဲ က်န္းမာေရး အပါအ၀င္ေပါ့ဗ်ာ လုပ္အားခ ဆိုရင္လည္း တရက္ကို၂၀၅ ဘတ္ခ်ဳပ္ထားေပမယ့္ တကယ္တမ္းက်ေတာ့ ၁ ရက္ကိုဘတ္ ၁၆၀ ေလာက္ပဲရပါတယ္"

Friday, 13 April 2012

Will nationality verification be extended, again?

According to an article in the Bangkok Post, the deadline for nationality verification as part of the passport/work permit application process is expected to be extended, following the opening of new processing offices in Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Surat Thani and Chiang Mai later this month:
The Labour Ministry is likely to seek cabinet approval to extend the nationality verification deadline for Myanmar migrant workers... All migrants registering to work in Thailand were initially required to verify their nationality before Feb 28... The Labour Ministry later extended the deadline to June 14 as more than 1 million migrant workers had not yet completed their verification... the nationality verification process for about 1 million migrant workers was unlikely to meet the June 14 deadline.

Artists' union formed in Myanmar

In a recent Guardian article I came across this brief mention of the formation of an artists' "alliance" (union) in Myanmar. One of those involved in the union is Aung Soe Min, who runs the Pansodan Art Gallery in Yangon.
With Thein Sein's recent relaxation of unionisation regulations, local artists have been able to create an independent artists' alliance, and plan to form an art colony and museum of contemporary works in the coming months... "With the alliance, we want to give a space for artists to explore their own creativity, to explore their true feelings" [said Aung Soe Min].

Thursday, 12 April 2012

More on the Songkla and Kanchanaburi strikes

Bangkok Post provides another report with more details about the recent migrant worker strikes at factories in Songkla an Kanchanaburi provinces. The workers "accused their employer of reducing meal allowances, docking their pay for so called 'bondage payments' and holding their passports to prevent them from leaving." However, "Thai labour authorities said they were monitoring the situation and believe the resentment stems from misunderstandings due to the language barrier." Regarding the Songkla strike, where the workers were mostly Cambodian, the Cambodian ambassador to Thailand reportedly told the labour broker "who brought in 800 workers from Cambodia to work at the Songkla factory to settle the issue quickly and smoothly or she will appeal to her government to withdraw its licence in Phnom Penh... She said she has communicated with the factory and [the labour broker] and advised the workers to respect Thai labour laws and not to resort to any violence."

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Myanmar's Industrial Workers Union gets started

DVB reports on calls by the Yangon-branch of the recently formed Industrial Workers Union and the union's chairman Ye Kyaw Thu for "paid-leave for factory workers in their jurisdiction during the country’s New Year holidays." According to the article, the "Rangoon division Industrial Workers Union represents the 18 industrial zones in the administrative area and has about 2000 registered members."

Two strikes by migrants in Thailand

Regarding the Phatthana Seafood Company strike, which the Phnom Pehn Post covered yesterday, Australia's ABC quotes the following comments by Mahidol University's Andy Hall:

"The management apparently decided to reduce the benefit for the workers and almost immediately a protest erupted... Workers were very angry so they gathered outside of the gate, and it started to get a little bit heated and there were police brought in, shots fired and now we just have a situation where we have a lock-out. The evidence suggests this is quite a large factory and an international exporter from what the reports have been saying. If so then the conditions would be particularly bad because generally with these international factories they are monitored quite closely. We often find that in smaller factories with smaller workforces - prawn peeling sheds or things like that - we often find very exploitative conditions including trafficking, forced labour, violent failure to adhere to the minimum labour standards. But this is an exceptional case because the workers actually are some of the first workers to come in through the new legal import system. International importers rules outlaw debt bondage and the holding of passports by employers, and Mr Hall says Australia should be asking questions about the origins of its seafood. Seafood is one of the most significant export products from Thailand - making up something like 50 per cent goes to the US. But there's also a large amount going to Europe, Australia and within Asia and this is the responsibility of the corporations. It is also the responsibility of people in countries like Australia to be asking and demanding answers about where their seafood does come from."

Regarding a separate strike by Myanmar migrants in Kanchanaburi Province, the Bangkok Post provides this rather insufficient article:

More than 4,000 workers, mostly foreign labour, on Wednesday staged a protest at a pineapple factory in Kanchanaburi province, demanding the government's promised 300 baht daily minimum wage. Reports said most of the workers are from neighbouring Myanmar. Police arrived at the factory to deal with the protesters.

New union formations in Yangon

The Irrawady reports on the formation of unions among factory workers and construction workers in Yangon. According to one factory worker named Ko Pyi Phyoe:
“က်ေနာ္တို႔ စက္႐ုံေတြမွာ အလုပ္သမားေတြဟာ အလုပ္သမား အခြင့္အေရးကို ျပည့္ျပည့္၀၀ရဖို႔ မေျပာပါနဲ႔ အလုပ္သမား အခြင့္အေရးဆိုတာကို ေသေသခ်ာခ်ာ ၾကားဖူးတဲ့သူ နားလည္တဲ့သူေတာင္ ရွားတယ္။ လုပ္ခတို႔ ဘာတို႔ ဆိုတာကလည္း အရမ္း နည္းလြန္းတယ္။ ဒီၾကားထဲ အလုပ္ရွင္က ေခါင္းပံုျဖတ္တာေတြ ဖိႏွိပ္တာေတြလည္း လုပ္ေသးတယ္။ ဒါေတြကို ကာကြယ္ဖို႔က အလုပ္သမား သမဂၢ ရွိမွ ျဖစ္မယ္လို႔ ယံုၾကည္တဲ့အတြက္ က်ေနာ္တို႔ ဒီ ခ်ည္မွ်င္ႏွင့္ အထည္ခ်ဳပ္ အလုပ္သမား မ်ား သမဂၢကို ဖြဲ႕လိုက္ၾကတာပါ”

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Threats against strikers, labour shortages and nationality verification

The Phnom Penh Post reports on threats made by Thai police against Myanmar and Cambdian migrant workers who were on strike at a seafood factory in Songkla:
Police threatened workers and fired shots into the air as a dispute involving about 800 Cambodian workers at Phatthana Seafood Co Ltd in Thailand’s Songkhla province escalated yesterday, a workers’ representative said.

Sok Sorng said “many police” had threatened workers with guns as more than 1,000 workers, including some from Myanmar and Thailand, rallied against management locking them out of the factory, which is believed to be a supplier of retail giant Walmart, a day after they went on strike over wages.

"There were so many police deployed in front of the factory," he said.

Police had threatened to shoot workers if they entered the factory, and fired their guns into the air to disperse the crowd, Sok Sorng said.

"They wanted us to be scared," he said.
The Bangkok Post provides another report about a looming labour shortage in Thailand linked reforms in Myanmar and a related growth in employment opportunities there.
Some Thai businesses feel besieged just as the minimum wage was hiked because a possible labour shortage looms with Myanmar opening its economy.

The construction, fishery and food industries will be the hardest hit as they rely heavily on migrant workers from Myanmar.


"I'd say all factories are facing a labour shortage. No matter how high wages rise, we have to pay them because of the shortage we are facing," he said.


As Myanmar undertakes political and economic reforms, especially after this month's by-election, analysts have begun to point out that positive developments there will tighten the labour market in Thailand over the next few years.
And MCOT reports on the opening of five new nationality verification offices for Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand, to assist with the current round of migrant passport applications.
Myanmar migrant workers nationality verification centres are expected to be ready and opened for services late in April as the nationality verification process will be completed by June...

... the parties discussed the latest developments regarding the establishment of five nationality verification centres for Myanmar migrant workers—one each in Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Surat Thani and Chiang Mai.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Two articles on the formation of labour unions in Myanmar

An article from Mizzima published earlier in March states that Su Su Nway and workers at Tai Yi Footwear Factory in Hlaing Thar Yar are in the process of forming a union.

Workers at the Tai Yi footwear factory in Rangoon Region formed an unofficial trade union on Sunday.


Su Su Nway said that the workers were ready to face pressure from the government for forming an unofficial trade union without permission.

“We are not a political party,” she said. “We are real workers working in this factory. We formed the trade union to protect workers’ rights. We will provide them systematic training and the trade union will provide leadership in demanding their rights and presenting their grievances to the employer.”

A separate article from the Myanmar Times indicates that labour strikes are to be overseen by "labour federations".

The Labour Organisation Law (2011) came into force on March 9 and allows workers from any sector – except essential public services such as water, electricity, fire and health – to strike according to the rules of the relevant labour federation.

Labour federations are an executive committee with an odd number of members that range in size from seven to 15 people and are formed with the recommendation of not less than 20 percent of the members of region or state labour organisations.

Above the federations will be the Myanmar Labour Confederation and under the federations will be region or state labour organisations, township labour organisations and basic labour organisations for each trade or activity.

“If a basic labor organisation wants to strike it would need to get permission from the relevant labour federation. After that they can do the strike whenever – they don’t need to follow the procedures in the peaceful protest law of the Ministry of Home Affairs,” U That Naing Oo said.

The law states that labour issues will have to be filed through the basic labour organisations to a township conciliation body formed under the Trade Dispute Act. The workers can strike only if the township conciliation body is unable to solve the problem and it has permission from the applicable labour federation.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

ILO to begin work in ethnic conflict zones

DVB reports on the extension of ILO activities in Myanmar:

A UN body tasked with pushing for workers’ rights and an end to forced labour in Burma has been granted access to conflict zones in the country’s border regions that for years have been largely off-limits to international monitoring groups.

The agreement means the International Labour Organization (ILO) becomes one of the first overseas bodies to begin sustained operations in the volatile areas where Burma’s government has been battling ethnic armies.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Myanmar reforms could mean tighter SE Asia labor market

The Wall Street Journal reports:

As Myanmar tallies the last votes from Sunday’s critical parliamentary by-elections, many business leaders are pondering the implications of the country’s recent run of political reforms. For many Southeast Asia-based companies, the big issue is whether migrant workers from the country also known as Burma decide to return home, resulting in a tighter labor market – especially in Thailand.An estimated one million or more Burmese migrant workers fill mostly low-wage jobs in Thailand. If political and economic conditions keep improving in Myanmar, experts believe it’s likely that many of those workers will indeed go back, while others still at home might decide to never leave at all. All that would mean companies in Thailand and elsewhere could eventually face higher labor costs.