Thousands of workers on Sunday marched in downtown Yangon to demand that the country’s labour laws meet International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards.
The march was led by the Confederation of Trade Union Myanmar (CTUM) and Myanmar Industrial Crafts and Services Trade Union Federation (MICS), two of the largest labour groups in the country.
“We have been asking for the amendment of labour laws to include ILO standards, but the legislature said the time is not right yet in Myanmar,” Daw Phyo Sandar Soe, assistant general secretary of CTUM, said.
She said the law makers have refused to adopt ILO standards despite 187 countries having included them in their laws.
“We have to get out and march; we can’t be patient on this matter,” said Daw Phyo Sandar Soe.
Protest leaders said parliament and Ministry of Labour had passed labour laws concerning the leave and holidays without consulting the workers.
The government has been amending the 2012 Settlement of Labour Disputes law and labour organisation laws without considering the workers’ perspectives and suggestions, labour leaders said.
Ko Thet Hnin Aung, general secretary of MICS, said at the protest that no MPs are interested in labour affairs, noting that some labour laws have been passed by parliament without debate.
“We will never vote in the next general election for those political parties,” Ko Thet Hnin Aung said in his speech.
The protest leaders also said thousands of workers had been sacked for organising labour unions.
The government has ruled that labour disputes that do not involve union members cannot go through labour arbitration but must go through civil courts.
The protesters demanded the government establish labour courts to ensure protection of the rights of workers and to ensure the rights of the government rank and file are also protected.
They also demanded the Labour Ministry include construction workers and workers in special economic zones under labour law protections.