4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Myanmar

The ITUC affiliate in Myanmar is the Federation of Trade Unions - Myanmar (FTUM).

There have been positive developments in Burma/Myanmar over the past year, though much work remains to be done. In September 2012, the Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB), now Federation of Trade Unions – Myanmar (FTUM), and its leaders were permitted to return to the country following decades in exile and to continue their trade union activity. FTUM General Secretary Maung Maung has established an office in Yangon and, in roughly six months, the Federation counts over 130 affiliated unions with 18,000 members.

In practice

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No right to collective representation18-05-2014

The Myanmar Maritime Trade Unions (MMTU) has not been registered for more than one year by the Labour Department. Other unions in the same sector have been registered suggesting that the government favours certain unions over others. MMTU reports the lack of accessibility to information concerning collective agreements and working contracts for seafarers. Violations of the right to collective representation have led to abusive precarious relationships enforced by recruitment agencies on workers.

Anti-union discrimination16-08-2013

In practice, over 400 basic-level unions have been registered in the last year, reflecting a strong demand for a collective voice at work. Workers report, however, that some union organisers and leaders suffer retaliation for their legally-protected activity. Further, the dispute resolution procedures are not always effective in providing the necessary remedies. In particular, the newly established arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
councils do not yet have the tools necessary to enforce its decisions – especially as to reinstatement.

Taw Win embroidery factory does not comply with collective agreement01-08-2013

At the Taw Win embroidery factory, workers started to form a union and went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
over very low wages. The employer agreed to raise the wages but never implemented the agreement. The workers took the case from conciliation conciliation An attempt by a neutral third party, a conciliator, to aid the settling of an industrial dispute by improving communications, offering advice and interpreting issues to bring the disputing parties to a point where they can reconcile their differences. The conciliator does not take as active a role as a mediator or an arbitrator.

See arbitration, mediation
to the arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
council, which ruled that the employer should comply with the agreement. The employer retaliated by finding minor reasons to discipline the workers involved in the complaint. The employer also refused to allow workers to collect dues, claiming that it was not legal. The employer also claimed that the union was not legitimate because of its association with the FTUM.

Workers prevented from establishing a union01-08-2013

Workers at the Inlay shoe factory in Bago reported employer hostility, including cases of managers physically abusing the workers. Workers were not paid appropriately for overtime, and they were punished with wage deductions when they were sick. The workers had initially tried to form a union with 30 workers but were told by the registrar that they would need 300, as the factory employed 3,000 workers. The registrar allegedly called the factory owner, who then begun to retaliate against the workers who had supported the registration process. Whenever anyone is rumoured to be a union activist, they are usually transferred to separate them from their co-workers. Workers were also instructed not to contact outside organisations. Subsequently, it is believed that the company registered their own management-dominated union with only 30 workers.

Anti-union discrimination by government ministries 01-08-2013

When workers attempted to organise unions in four government ministries, the leaders were forcibly transferred to distant locations when the government learned of the union activity. Furthermore, an anti-union memo was allegedly circulated describing the best methods to avoid a union. The labour ministry explained that workers have the right to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, but other government ministries expressed that this was not their policy.

No trade unions allowed31-12-2010

There is a complete lack of legally registered workers’ organisations in Burma. Any workers’ organisation has to function underground, and its members face constant threats of repression and reprisal, including detention, torture and criminal prosecution. This applies, for example, to the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB), which is affiliated to the ITUC.

FTUB still considered an illegal organisation30-11-2009

Despite the ITUC and the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
insisting that the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) be recognised as an official workers’ organisation, it is still considered an illegal organisation. The FTUB has been forced to operate clandestinely since its inception in 1991. It maintains structures both inside and outside the country including underground unions in key industrial sectors in Burma proper, and operates in all the major cities of the country. It actively collects evidence of violations of workers’ rights and monitors the denial of collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
rights in industrial sectors, as well as evidence of forced labour, which it communicates to the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
and to the international labour movement. FTUB members caught doing so are accused of treason and other offences and have been sentenced to life imprisonment, and in some cases have incurred the death penalty.

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