Burma: New decree against industrial action

2 September 2010.
Burmese workers in factories in Rangoon who launch or participate in industrial protests demanding better rights or conditions will be fired and blacklisted, said sources in Rangoon.

The new regulation was decreed on Aug. 20 at a meeting in Rangoon attended by industry employers, government ministers and Burmese military officials, including Lt-Gen Myint Swe of the Ministry of Defense.

The reason for the decree, the sources said, is that the Burmese authorities want to prevent further industrial action.

In March, workers at industries such as Shwe Pyi Thar, Taung Dagon and Hlaing Thayar launched protests demanding employers give them time off during public holidays and increase their salaries and payments for working overtime hours.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy anonymously, a military official in Rangoon said, “The employers don’t want their workers taking action to demand more money, so now they can fire those who protest and stop them from getting jobs elsewhere,” adding that the authorities were happy to go along with the employers’ request as it would help prevent unrest.

“If they [Burmese authorities] jail protesters, they will face worse criticism,” he said. “This decree will be useful in preventing people from taking industrial action. If they don’t want to be jobless, they won’t protest.”

A Burmese industry worker in Burma earns about 20,000 kyats to 40,000 kyat [US $20-40] monthly. Many of them have to work overtime because their monthly incomes are insufficient.

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