Monday, 29 April 2013

The Irrawaddy: Workers’ Rights Improving, but Problems Remain

The Irrawaddy reports on changes in Myanmar's labour rights situation:
A year after the enactment of Burma’s labor organization and freedom of association laws, local and international workers’ rights activists say more must be done to support the newfound freedoms in practice.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

ATM remittances to Myanmar

The Bangkok Post reports:
Myanmar nationals working in Thailand will be able to remit funds to their homeland via ATM for the first time after Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) signed a deal with Myanmar’s Kanbawza Bank to accept transfers through their ATM network.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

New Mahachai-Mae Sot bus route for migrants

Bangkok Post reports on a new bus route for migrants from Mahachai to Mae Sot.
"A new bus route to Tak's Mae Sot was launched yesterday to help transport Myanmar migrant workers and their families to the border more comfortably... The new direct route will take Myanmar workers from Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province directly to the border at Mae Sot... It will help migrants travel home with more convenience and dignity, says the Migrant Workers' Rights Network (MWRN)... More importantly, the migrants can travel with some dignity as the bus will go through only one or two checkpoints where authorities will get on the bus to check their papers... Until now, the migrants have had to disembark from their shuttle buses or pickup trucks five or six times during the trip to be checked by officials... Very often, some of the workers were harassed and humiliated although they were carrying proper documents.. About 200 Myanmar workers travel to Mae Sot from Bangkok's Mor Chit Bus Terminal daily. That number is expected to increase to 300 a day during Songkran and other long holidays."

The lawsuit against labour rights activist Andy Hall

Local news article on the case of labour rights activist Andy Hall.
"Andy Hall (33) has been issued with criminal and civil libel suits by Thai company Natural Fruit, of Pranburi – one of the country’s biggest pineapple exporters – and faces jail and damages of US$10 million... Mr Hall was one of a team who produced a report on companies employing immigrant labour for the watchdog organisation Finnwatch. But, rather than sue Finnwatch, Natural Fruits chose to sue Mr Hall personally after they gathered information he had presented to a meeting at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand."
You can support Andy Hall in this case through via an online Labour Start campaign here.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

On ASEAN labour market intergration

The Wall Street Journal reports on the migrant labour aspects of ASEAN economic integration:
The disparities in income levels and economic development within Southeast Asia highlight the challenges facing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as they try to tie their economies closer together by the end of 2015. Asean is preparing to allow the freer flow of goods, investment and skilled labor ahead of the launch of the Asean Economic Community, a union modeled on the European common market, by Dec. 31, 2015... The region emerged largely unscathed from the global financial crisis, and the bloc's economy—with a combined GDP of some $2.2 trillion that should grow 5% to 6% a year for the next five years, according to the International Monetary Fund—has become an increasingly important source of global growth as developed economies falter... Southeast Asia's relatively young demographic is drawing growing investment to the region... With a total population of about 600 million people, open borders within Asean could allow vast numbers of workers to move across Southeast Asia seeking higher wages and better opportunities. That could reduce income disparities—and benefit the bloc's economy as a whole... To grow as a bloc "you have to integrate our labor and capital markets... That's something that will have to happen down the road."

Update on Myanmar workers in Jordan

Eleven News has an update of the recent labour conflict involving Myanmar migrant workers employed at a garment factory in Jordan. 
Over 900 Myanmar workers will remain in Jordan and continue with their employment in spite of fact that most desire to return to their home... Many are facing all sorts of difficulties... Among the 1,300 workers, over 200 workers have already come back. The rest are staying at Jordan because of various reasons.  “Some had to mortgage their houses and lands when they went to Jordan and now they have been still in debt so they couldn’t go back to Myanmar. Some are staying there as their contract is nearly complete and so they don’t want to pay compensation to the company. They hope that some officials from Myanmar come there and help them,” ... Myanmar workers working at Century Garment Apparel protest started when diarrhea broke out after eating the meals the employer has given to them.  They have demanded for raising salary up to US $ 200, to end racial discrimination and to provide healthy food that is suitable with Myanmar people. Their protest started from February 14 to March 25 peacefully but the factory owner didn’t agree with them... There are a total of 3,200 Myanmar workers working in six garment factories in Jordan.

Passports, brokers and extortion

Trustlaw has an excellent article on the problems with Thailand's current passport and work permit registration process:
...a broker who offered to get her Burmese passport and Thai work permit for a 12,000 baht ($409) fee - more than a month’s wage and three times the cost if she were to do it herself. “I asked why it was so expensive, and the broker said, ‘There are lots of others involved. I only get a share’, ... In an effort to legalise its migrant labourers, Thailand in 2009 set up a National Verification (NV) registration process, but over the years, the convoluted paperwork required spawned an exploitative industry of middlemen who cut through the red tape - at an exorbitant cost... “There’s corruption from brokers and government officials… And there’s no transparency to the process.” ... workers like Aye are being squeezed for the little money they earn by brokers who collude with government officials and employers... The current registration process was established after a previous one ended in December. It was supposed to be more transparent following activists’ complaints of corruption and overcharging during the earlier process... Yet things remained the same. It is almost impossible for a migrant worker to get the paperwork without brokers, who push up the prices. “Every time the government announces a deadline and say (the workers) will be deported if they don’t register by then, it’s an opportunity for brokers to exploit the workers.