Monday, 24 September 2012

Striking gold miners charged

The Myanmar Times reports:
Seventeen workers from a restive gold mining region in Mandalay’s Yamethin township have been charged with committing an obscene act and criminal intimidation following an altercation earlier this month with security staff from Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company.

State of the Myanmar garment industry

The Myanmar Times reports on the state of the garment industry in Myanmar:
[Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association] president U Myit Soe said: “The countries that sell raw materials to Myanmar, such as Singapore and Malaysia, are geographically distant from our export markets in Japan and South Korea, which increases production time. As we are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines, workers are forced to work long hours and overtime payments are low.” He said Myanmar produces low quality garments due to a lack of skilled workers and total earnings amount to about 10 or 15 percent of an item’s total export value. “We are paid a ‘sewing fee’ – we do not design the clothes and we must import the raw materials too,” he added... “We’ve tried hard to develop the skills of our workers. But once the skills are acquired, workers often quit and move to factories along the Chinese and Thai borders in search of better pay. We are yet to get the high turnover rate under control,” she added.

Remittance service for migrants

Mizzima reportson the introduction of Western Union services to transfer into Myanmar:
The Western Union Company will offer international money remittance services in Burma in collaboration with Myanmar Oriental Bank (MOB) to facilitate overseas transfers of money back to Burma, according to a company press release. The remittance service will be provided by the US- based company through a joint agreement with MOB starting at the end of the month. The deal covers only incoming remittance. Outbound transfers will follow later... Burmese workers abroad have traditionally relied on the Hundi network, an informal international remittance network to transfer money back to their families at home.

New book on Myanmar migrants in Mae Sot

The Nation reports on the release of "Thailand's Hidden Workforce" (Zed Books, 2012) co-authored by Kyoko Kusakabe:
Kusakabe is associate professor in gender and development at the Asian Institute of Technology on the outskirts of Bangkok. Her interest in gendered mobility and migration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region brought her together with Pearson to expose the harsh realities of the migrant labour. "Thailand's Hidden Workforce" focuses on labour issues affecting specifically migrant women workers from Myanmar toiling away in garment factories mainly in Mae Sot in Tak province and the Three Pagoda Pass in Sangkhlaburi. Mae Sot hosts the largest number of women workers from neighbouring Myanmar. Through her book, Kusakabe tries to lift the lid on the realities faced by women in garment factories where the conditions are "exploitative and difficult.

HRW's Ad Hoc and Inadequate

The recently released Human Rights Watch report Ad Hoc and Inadequate: Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers has information about the situation of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand and refugees living outside the camps.

Migrant film to be screened in October

Zin Yaw Maung Maung film "The Moon Lotus" about Myanmar migrant workers will be screened in Thailand starting in October 2012. According to The Nation "The romantic drama, adapted from Khin Khin Htoo's novel of the same name, is a story about unrequited love between two college students who are separated for years."

Friday, 7 September 2012

Myanmar new gov't creates job opportunities for 450,000 people

China's Global Times reports on the job market in Myanmar:
Myanmar's new government has created job opportunities for 450,000 people during its one and a half year's tenure since taking office in March 2011... Small and medium enterprises such as garment and footwear factories, which account for 90 percent of local and foreign investment, brought most job opportunities for the people... The government is giving priority to investors who invest in those projects that can create most job opportunities for the locals. There are 14 million people at home and abroad unemployed, accounting for 23 percent of the overall population... Meanwhile, a large number of Myanmar youth graduates of various nationalities from both urban and rural areas are working abroad... The growing number of migrant workers is attributed to the lack of jobs and inadequacy of families, high cost of living, lack of health care guarantee, lack of workers rights and exploitation over salaries by employers and brokers, it was blamed... In March, Myanmar's parliament approved the Labor Organization Law, which covers protecting employees' rights, setting up good relationship between employers and employees as well as forming labor associations systematically and freely.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Soe Lin Aung on Workers in Dawei

Soe Lin Aung has a very informative and insightful piece over at New Mandala looking at the Dawei deep sea industrial port from a labour perspective. He concludes:
In other words, no shortcuts – just the daily hard work of local-level organizing and alliance-building, with ears to the ground. Thailand-based groups that work with migrant workers from Burma would do well to assist in this work, in Dawei and elsewhere in the country, as these organizations know what it means to open up spaces for organizing in difficult conditions. Admittedly the need for a labour-based approach in Dawei remains largely unrecognized; labour issues are considered peripheral to other approaches thus far. But as a project that remains, for now at least, something of a showpiece initiative for Burma’s liberalization process, Dawei may well set standards for years to come. It could also be read as a harbinger of sorts, a sign or symbol of broader trends in the region. The processes that Dawei represents – informalization of labour, expulsion of rural communities from their land, degradation of labour standards, the production of new surplus communities at the periphery of global capitalism – are signs of dark days to come for working people, in Burma as elsewhere. While the project is still relatively labour-intensive, now is the time for labour mobilization. With the stature of the project still intact, the repercussions could be tremendous.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Western Markets ‘Will Promote Worker Rights’?

The Irrawaddy reports:
The return of Western markets for Burma’s once-booming garment industry can help safeguard worker rights, claims an industry expert. While the United States and Europe were always vigilant in ensuring workplace practices were up to scratch, Burma’s post-sanctions biggest export market of Japan only cared about the quality of items being delivered, said Myanmar Garment Association (MGA) Chairman Myint Soe. “US garment firms are very concerned with labor rights. Normally, US garment companies check the working environment of factories and other labor suppliers before they give the green light for trade,” he told a press conference held by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).