Yangon, June (18)

Factory workers have struggled to make ends meet amid rising commodity prices and stagnant minimum wages since the military takeover led by General Min Aung Hlaing, workers and labour activists told Than Lwin Times.

The prices of general commodities and gold, and dollar value have risen dramatically since the military takeover, while the workers’ minimum daily wages remain at 4,800 kyats.

The workers’ daily wages of 4,800 kyats are equal over $2 according to the reference exchange rate of the junta-controlled Central Bank at 2,100 kyats per US dollar.

A worker who works in a garment factory in an industrial zone in Yangon told Than Lwin Times, “It is not at all convenient for daily wage earners because the prices of goods have gone up and the wages have not been increased. I earn about 250,000 kyats including overtime payment a month at the garment factory. But due to rising general commodity prices and housing costs, it is not enough to live on. It will be enough for the factory workers if they earn more than 300,000 kyats per month, excluding overtime pay”.

An official of a Myanmar-owned garment factory in Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone said, “It depends on the factory’s income to increase the basic salary of the workers. For more than two years since the military coup, factories and manufacturers have been running on gasoline due to power outages. Because the military council controls fuel oil, factories have to apply to the Supervisory Committee on Import, Storage and Distribution of Fuel Oil to buy fuel, and they are not allowed to buy the required amount of fuel.

In Myanmar, the Minimum Wage Law was enacted in March 2013 under the administration of former President U Thein Sein, and the rules and procedures were enacted in July 2013, and it is stated that it must be reviewed and amended every two years.

Regardless of location or type of business, the minimum wage rate was set for the first time in September 2015 at 450 kyats per hour and 3,600 kyats for 8 hours of work each day.

The minimum wage was set at 4,800 kyats per day in May 2018, during the NLD government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The minimum wage is supposed to be adjusted every two years under the Minimum Wage Law, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the military coup, it has remained at 4,800 kyats per day for the past five years.

According to a labor activist, “in order to raise the minimum wage, there must be negotiation among employers, workers, and the authorities, but there is currently no worker representative. As a result, raising the minimum wage is impossible,” he stated.

The worker groups and trade unions were declared unlawful organizations by the military council’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population in March 2021, one month after the military takeover.

In addition, the military council arrested labor activists and members of trade unions who participated in protests against the military coup, and employers also stopped them from hiring.

Daw Moe Sandar Myint, chairman of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM), stated, “There is nothing we can do to improve the lives of the people and workers under the military dictatorship. Workers demanding an increase in the minimum wage have been arrested by the military council. Every day, people and workers throughout the entire country face hardships caused by the brutal actions of the military council”.

With workers’ rights being violated under the military council, grassroots workers are suffering the consequences of a minimum wage that has not changed in five years and fivefold commodity prices.

The Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar (STUM) has called for an increase in the minimum wage to 10,000 kyat per day for workers in local factories and manufactures on International Workers’ Day, which falls on May 1.

News – Than Lwin Times

Photo: Social Media

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