Thursday, 2 May 2013

First Myanmar Labour Organisations Conference

On 30 April 2013, the first Labour Organisations Conference was held in Myanmar organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the German NGO Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Summarising the event, the ILO reports:
One year after Myanmar passed its Labour Organization Law, delegates from some 500 labour organizations gathered in an unprecedented conference to hone their skills in labour organization, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, among other areas of crucial importance to the country's workers... The ILO has established the Freedom of Association project to help in the implementation of the Labour Organization Law. The project is funded by the US State Department and provides education and training to workers, businesses and government officials.
More interestingly was a controversy that developed when some Myanmar unions suggested that certain groups and individuals had been planted at the conference in order to skew the vote for Myanmar's delegate to the June 2013 ILO conference in Geneva.  The Myanmar Times reports:
The first day of the largest labour conference in Myanmar in more than 50 years was marred by conflict between participants over the selection of a delegate for an international meeting in Geneva... Some 88 Generation members and labour delegates said they doubted whether all of the participants were from registered labour organisations, suggesting some may have been planted to affect the outcome of the vote for a Myanmar delegate to send to the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in June. “I have doubts about voting for a delegate to go to Geneva. How can we vote if we don’t even know the other people sitting here,” one labour delegate said at the meeting. Mr Ross Wilson, the chief technical adviser for the ILO Freedom of Association Program in Yangon, attempted to resolve the dispute after the lunch break. One representative from a Myanmar non-government organisation, who asked not to be named, said they believed some groups were trying to derail the conference. “I think this kind of conference has come early for Myanmar, at a time when people are not yet used to labour organisations. Some political groups can take advantage of the situation,” she said.
An RFA video of the event shows FTUB's U Maung Maung walk out in anger along with a group of his supporters in response to the dispute.  It appears that some groups and labour activists were suggesting that FTUB had brought in additional people in order to skew the vote to get U Maung Muang elected as the Myanmar representative for the coming ILO conference.  In the video U Maung Maung states that he will not attend the conference because it "has no rules".  However, RFA reports that U Maung Maung nonetheless came back to attend the following day.  The other labour delegates in the video state that FTUB "has no position in Myanmar."

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