President promises to set minimum wage

The government will propose a minimum wage this month, President U Thein Sein has announced. After a 60-day period for comments and objections, the government will then set the minimum wage in advance of the elections, he said.

The president set out the timetable in a letter to parliament yesterday.

Following extended discussions around the country between representatives of management and labour, with input from foreign experts, a final coordination meeting will be held to settle on a proposed minimum wage.

The Minimum Wage Law was enacted in 2013. The ministries concerned were due to appear before the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw yesterday to explain what steps they have been taking over the past two years to implement it.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has formed committees to set minimum wages in each state and region, hold seminars, and conduct cost-of-living surveys. It has also compiled suggestions and recommendations in respect of the minimum wage.

However, it has been widely criticised for failing to set a minimum wage sooner. In January 2014 it promised to set the minimum wage by the end of the year, but missed this deadline.

Labour leaders say its failure to move faster on the issue is a major reason for disputes erupting between employers and workers at Myanmar’s industrial zones. Earlier this year, thousands of workers from garment factories in Shwe Pyi Thar township went on strike demanding a K1000-a-day pay rise, before police eventually use plain-clothed thugs to break up their protest.

In his letter, the president said the government would act in the long-term interests of employers and employees and the economic development of the country in determining a rate both sides could accept and adopt.

U Naw Aung, a labour representative on the National Committee for the minimum wage and secretary of the Myanmar Trade Unions Federation, said he welcomed the president’s letter to parliament.

However, he pointed out that the wage could only be set by the committee, and suggested the president should instead demand that the committee meet imminently to set the wage.

He said the minimum wage should not be less than K4000 a day, and suggested that workers were likely to do well out of the wage-setting process because the government will want to keep them happy ahead of the general election in November.

Source: Myanmar Times

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