After months of protest and dispute, the minimum wage was finally confirmed at K3600 per day at a final meeting with employers and worker representatives yesterday.
The National Committee on the Minimum Wage said all participants had agreed on the amount at the meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, which was the eighth to be held since the process was launched.
“We finalised the minimum wage at K3600 and will officially announce it before August 29,” Minister for Labour U Aye Myint said.
“However, we have to submit the results of the meeting to the Union government to get its approval.”
Committee secretary U Myo Aung said the ministry would also consider a request from employers to cut overtime rates from double time to time-and-a-half, but this would require a change of law and so would take some time.
U Naw Aung, a labour representative on the committee, said he agreed to the rate even though he was hoping for a higher figure.
“I didn’t want to agree, but it’s impossible for anything to happen if we disagree all the time. I supported the final figure because it was the wish of the majority,” he said.
“The minimum wage is the first step for ensuring workers have enough to live on, and we can try to increase it later.”
Workers and union leaders had pushed for a K4000 minimum as the basic amount needed to cover their day-to-day expenses. But employers have insisted that even K3600 is too high. Some threatened to close their factories if the government forced the wage.
U Aye Tun, managing director of Aung Thein Than, said the government should work to cut other “hidden” costs for employers, such as transportation and taxes. The government should also strictly enforce labour laws to ensure there were no more disputes, which harm the output of factories and the willingness of businesses to invest.
Workers will also need to earn the wage by improving productivity and agreeing to sign contracts, he said.
“If the wage is K3600, we will need to make some changes, such as cutting back on workers or signing employee contracts,” he said.
Ma Myat San Win, director of UMH Garment, said she will push workers to improve productivity and will fire those who cannot make the grade.
“We will consider how to manage our business [with the new wage]. We definitely need to change attitudes between workers and employers and find ways to cooperate to get the job done,” she said.
While many workers are reluctant to sign employment contracts, Ma Hla Hla, a worker at Gallant Ocean fish and seafood processing plant, said the agreements could also protect employees. She suggested that unions should launch an education campaign to encourage workers to sign on and ensure their rights and benefits.
“We will have to wait and see what the situation is after the minimum wage comes out. We might need to keep demanding our rights,” she said.
Source: Myanmar Times