By Brian Collett — A high-powered committee is to take the first steps towards fixing a minimum wage in Myanmar.
The committee, newly formed by the government, will set the basic policies for establishing minimum wage levels.
Its members will be financial experts, workers’ groups, ministry officials and leaders of industry bodies, including the Myanmar Garment Entrepreneurs’ Association, which represents a sector that has become one of the country’s biggest foreign income earners.
The present minimum is 3,600 kyat ($2.65, £2, €2.47) a day, determined by the previous regime in 2015.
Workers’ group complained at the time it was less than the pay of government staff and demanded 5,600 kyat a day. Even at 3,600 kyat some factories were said to have been forced to close because the employers could not afford to pay it.
In the garment industry there have been allegations of child labour and excessive overtime, sometimes forced or unpaid, as well as inadequate wages. In the development of industrial zones land rights are said to have been violated.
As the minimum wage committee begins its deliberations, workers still in dispute at the Chinese-owned Hundred Tex Garment factory in Yangon, are demanding outstanding overtime payments and better working conditions.
Many staff have been earning less than the minimum wage and have not received due overtime payments and skills bonuses.
The workers’ union claims the employers have broken an agreement reached in December and are refusing to form a workplace co-ordination committee, as required by Myanmar’s labour laws.
The Swedish fashion group H&M, whose goods are produced at the factory, has frozen its contract with Hundred Tex Garment until the dispute is settled satisfactorily.
Christina Hajagos-Clausen, textile director at the global union federation IndustriALL
, said: “The employer is clearly not respecting the outcome of the negotiations in December. There seems to be a lack of good faith from their part and we urge them to engage in dialogue and resolve the conflict.”