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Section 7. Worker Rights

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In September 2015 the government adopted an official minimum daily wage of 3,600 kyats ($2.70). The minimum wage covers a standard eight-hour workday across all sectors and industries and applies to all workers except for those in businesses with fewer than 15 employees. The announcement did not include any mention of overtime compensation, which, as was the case for the minimum wage, had been a contentious issue of debate over the previous two years between the government, employers, and workers. The National Tripartite Dialogue Forum was working through such questions, especially regarding overtime pay, through the end of the year. Estimates placed the national poverty income level at less than 1,000 kyats ($.75) per day.

On January 25, parliament passed the Payment of Wages Act. This law updates the 1936 law and requires employers to pay employees on the date the salary is due for companies with 100 employees or less. For companies with more than 100 employees, the employer is required to pay employees within five days from the designated payday. Also in January the government amended the 1951 Factories Act and the 1951 Shops and Establishments Act to mandate that overtime cannot exceed 12 hours per workweek and can exceed 16 hours in a workweek only on special occasions. The amendments also stipulate that an employee’s total working hours cannot exceed 11 hours per day (including overtime and a one-hour break) and applies to shops, commercial establishments, and establishments for public entertainment.

Recent legislation relating to occupational safety and health enacted in during the year included the Laws Relating to the Environment, Safety in the Use of Chemicals and Hazardous Substances, Boiler Act, and Electricity Act. The Labor Dispute Law stipulates the terms and conditions required for occupational safety, health, welfare, and productivity, but information is limited as to whether a worker can remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment.

The Ministry of Labor’s Factories and General Labor Laws Inspection Department oversees labor conditions in the private sector. Both resources and capacity constrained enforcement. In 2014 the ministry had 99 general labor law inspectors, 104 occupational safety and health inspectors, and 53 inspection offices for the country. While the inspectors had the technical knowledge, they did not have the equipment necessary to execute inspections properly. In certain sectors other ministries regulated occupational safety and health laws, for example the Ministries of Agriculture and Irrigation, Industries, Mines, and Health.

The law stipulates that disputes in special economic zones be settled in accordance with original contracts and existing laws. Under the 2013 Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law, the government appointed a labor inspector for each such zone and established zonal tripartite committees responsible for setting wage levels and monitoring the ratio of local and foreign labor.

On September 28-30, the government and ILO held the country’s second labor stakeholders forum under the auspices of the multipartner Initiative to Promote Fundamental Labor Rights and Practices in Myanmar. The forum brought together more than 200 participants from the public and private sectors to discuss labor rights and various labor problems, including addressing child labor, strengthening labor dispute settlement, and strengthening local capacity and institutions.

Enforcement of the laws generally took place in the government sector, but frequent violations occurred in private enterprises. The Union Parliament Joint Commission did not resume its work reviewing labor violations. Workers continued to submit complaints to relevant government agencies and the dispute settlement mechanism. Workers’ organizations alleged that government inspections were rare and often announced with several days’ notice that allowed factory owners to bring facilities–often temporarily–into compliance. Corruption and bribery of inspectors reportedly occurred.

The social security board covers all employees in companies with more than five employees, with the exception of six sectors (government, international organizations, seasonal farming and fisheries, construction, nonprofit organizations, and domestic work). In practical terms the board covered primarily industrial zones, the location of the majority of registered workers, and therefore supported less than 1 percent of individuals involved in workplace accidents or casualties. While the board provided hospitals and clinics, it did not keep independently verifiable statistics on accidents or workplace violations. Observers assumed workers in other sectors of the economy to have even less support, and no statistics on accidents or workplace violations were available.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future