While some may have had a relaxing day off, the workers of Myanmar came together to voice their right to be heard. During International Workers Day (May day) on 1 May 2019, thousands of labourers throughout the country, along with The Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM), urged the government to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention to end gender-based violence at work, which will take effect in June.
It also urged the government to ratify ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultation in honour of the ILO’s 100th anniversary.
For the past two years, labour unions have actively participated in government-initiated mechanism; hoping to enact some change according to the wants and needs of the labour force. Despite their efforts, they have yet to produce results as workers’ opinions and positions have been ignored. This was revealed by U Maung Maung, the confederation president, during his May day celebration speech.
“That is why we suspended our participations in the mechanism”, he added.
Representatives of the confederation quit the labour arbitration councils because the government ignored their suggestions on amending the labour laws. It said that government officials had pressured the worker representatives to resign from the councils.
The workers alleged that union leaders had been dismissed by employers to weaken labour unions and had been prohibited by law from taking complaints of labour rights violations to arbitration bodies, and instead were sent to civil courts.
Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population, U Thein Swe, denied these claims. He expressed his ministry’s dedication to protecting the rights of workers according to Myanmar law and international standards.
“Their complaints of labour rights violations are just their opinion”, he said in a statement to the media.
In Mandalay alone, the country’s second largest city, hundreds of labourers took to the streets to call on the government to respect their rights; which included the right to a decent wage.
The march was led by workers from the Myanmar Industries, Crafts and Services and the Trade Union Federation.
“We call on the government to meet workers’ demands on 129th annual Labour Day. We’re demanding six main points, including the adjustment of the minimum wage every two years”, said federation General Secretary, U Thet Hnin Aung.