After initial rejection and amid some continued reluctance, most employers are now ready to accept the K3600 a day minimum wage, provided a few conditions are met, the Ministry of Labour said.
During a meeting on July 25 with employers who had objected to the government-proposed minimum and demanded instead to pay only a K2500 daily wage, the company heads said they could reach a compromise, according to Daw Win Maw Tun, deputy minister of labour.
“The employers demanded the cost of overtime wages be reduced and the productivity of workers be accelerated,” said Daw Win Maw Tun.
Myanmar employers currently pay double for overtime, compared to the standard of one-and-a-half pay used elsewhere in the region.
But U Myo Aung, a secretary for the National Committee on Minimum Wages, said changing the overtime amount would require an amendment to the labour law, which he added was unlikely.
“That would take a long time. First we have to fix the minimum wage by the end of August,” he said.
But the employers, some of whom have threatened to close their factories and leave thousands jobless if the wage is enforced, seemed unwilling to capitulate without a compromise.
According to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturing Association, the 50 objecting employers present at the meeting demanded overtime be fixed at the “ASEAN standard” and holiday rights be reviewed.
Owner of UMH garment factory Ma Myat San Win, who attended the meeting, said it’s not that she “doesn’t want to pay a living wage” but that she can’t afford to pay it given the low productivity of entry-level workers. She said she will have to be much stricter about productivity regulations if the wage goes into effect.
After meeting separately with the labour ministry on July 26, workers appeared less willing to compromise over the terms of the minimum wage. Some said they felt overruled in the negotiations, and were resigned that they would likely have to accept an unrealistic salary.
“I did not say that I am willing to accept K3600 as the minimum wage. I can’t afford that,” said Ma Hla Hla, a worker from Gallant Ocean Fish and Seafood Production Factory.
“But I will have to accept it if the committee fixes the K3600 minimum wage despite whether I agree with it,” she said.
Other workers said while K3600 was not their idea of a living wage they would accept it since it is still a raise over their current earnings.
“I am not sure that K3600 will cover our living expenses, but I think it may cover more than our current condition,” said Ma Ei, a worker at the A1 garment factory.
After the government proposed enacting the minimum wage law with a K3600 base salary, the Ministry of Labour received over 300 letters of objection, largely from factory owners.