Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) has welcomed a new Labour Organization Law giving workers the right to strike and negotiate with owners, but the government must put the law into practice, FTUB Joint Secretary Dr. Zaw Win Aung said on Wednesday.
Under the law, passed by Parliament on Tuesday, if workers want to go on strike, they must inform relevant authorities two weeks in advance.
“We welcome enactment of the the law. We can accept that the law can give an important right to the workers. We want the government to put the law into practice. Allowing a workers’ union will make the country improve,” Dr. Zaw Win Aung, who lives in New Delhi, told Mizzima.
The Labour Organization Law was announced on Tuesday in a state-run newspaper, The Mirror. Dr. Zaw Win Aung said that if workers could form workers’ organizations under the law and those organizations could work for workers’ rights, the country would develop faster.
If workers want to launch a protest strike, they must inform the government of the date, the location and the number of workers who will take part, both to the relevant employer and to the authorities.
Under the law, the workers’ organizations can mediate between the workers and an employer, and they can object against unfair dismissals.
Basic workers’ organizations can form with at least 30 workers, but the group needs the support of at least 10 percent of the workers in a workplace. The workers’ organizations can be at a basic level, a township level, a regional or state level, a central level or a national level.
The law forbids employers from closing a workplace just because of a dispute with the workers when the dispute is being solved. The law also forbids employers from sacking workers who oppose unlawful closure of the workplace.
One of the restrictions is that workers cannot launch a strike at a location within 500 yards of hospitals, schools, religious buildings, airports, railway stations, bus stations, ports, embassies or diplomatic organizations, defense service buildings and police buildings.
Zaw Win Aung noted a weakness of the law is that it cannot protect a workers’ organization’s rights to own properties including buildings and rights regarding information.
He said the law says that workers’ organizations can collect funds, up to two percent of a members’ salaries, but the law does not say how the organizations must use the funds.
Meanwhile, Than Doke of the Thailand-based Burmese Labour Solidarity Organization noted that workers’ organizations need to protect workers’ rights and try to increase the salaries of the workers.
“How much does the law protect the workers? Authorities need to enact laws to protect workers’ rights. The situation depends on the extent of freedom in forming organizations. As far as I know, only this one [law] is not enough,” said Than Doke.
Labour Minister Aung Kyi submitted the Labour Organization Bill to Parliament on August 2, and the law was enacted on Tuesday by the approval of Parliament. The law comprises of 58 Sections in 14 Chapters.
Anyone who breaches the law can be sentenced to one year in prison or fined 100,000 kyat (about US$ 80), or both.