Federations to oversee labour strikes

By Sandar Lwin
Volume 31, No. 620
March 26 - April 1, 2012

STRIKES organised under the new Labour Organisation Law are not subject to rules pertaining to peaceful protests, a senior official from the Ministry of Labour said last week.

The labour law “does not relate to the peaceful protest law of the Ministry of Home Affairs. That law covers non-labour protests,” U That Naing Oo, director of the Department of Labour, told The Myanmar Times.

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.

“Any labour protests that take place without informing the respective conciliation body and the employer at least three days ahead of the protest are not allowed by this law,” he said.

Labour activists said that disputes were “increasing day by day” and labour organisations were urgently needed to solve labour issues under the new law.

Under the law, this process begins at the grassroots level with the support of basic labour organisations.

U Ye Naing Win, a labour activist and spokesperson of a committee established recently to support the formation of independent labour organisations, said it was difficult for many ordinary workers to form labour organisations because of poor literacy and knowledge of the law.

The committee will provide legal and technical assistance to workers wanting to form labour organisations.

“Generally, the workers have little knowledge about labour laws. They need help to form labour organisations and that’s why we formed a support committee to help them,” he said.

U That Naing Oo said the government was closely following the formation of labour organisations.

“The minister and the president are interested in the formation of labour organisations. They regularly ask us how many labour organisations have been formed so far,” he said, adding that none had been formed to date.