Minimum wage law retains few fans

One of this year’s most notable events is enactment of a daily minimum wage of Ks 3,600 following a series of strikes and protests by factory workers and labourers.

Protests that began in 2011 continued year after year, gaining more and more momentum. At that time, a factory worker’s salary started at just Ks 30,000 per month.

In order to resolve the problems prompting the protests, the government drafted a Minimum Wage Bill in 2013. Afterward, a poll was held in 108 townships around the country.

According to the data gathered from the polls, a family’s average spending in a day was between Ks 3,000 to Ks 4,000. But data gathered by the labour unions and organisations argued that daily expenditures were actually closer to Ks 7,500.

These exchanges were followed by numerous meetings between the labour leaders, business owners and government officials to set a daily minimum wage, and many amounts proposed – Ks 1,500, Ks 2,500 – while workers demanded between Ks 5,600 and Ks 8,500.

On June 3, in a meeting attending by Deputy Labour Minister Dr Win Maw Htun, garment factory owners threatened to shut down their factories, claiming they could not afford the new minimum wage. At the same time, labourers began to demand the same privileges as public servants; minimum daily wages of Ks 4,000, monthly salaries of Ks 120,000 and 8-hour work days.

Korean and Chinese garment factories again threatened to pack up and go home, but amidst all that, the national minimum wage committee set the amount to Ks 3,600, which was subsequently approved by the Union government.

Afterward, many factories fired hundreds of workers in the industrial zones. Hlaingthaya Industrial Zone alone saw thousands of workers let go. Other privileges, including overtime pay, ferry rides, dormitory lodging and meals were taken away from the labourers, resulting in some complaints that they were receiving more money in total prior to the setting of the new minimum wage.

Many arguments and clashes between employers and employees rose after the minimum wage was set as only permanent staff were able to enjoy it, while interns and workers on probation received less.

In December 8, Victoria Supermarket in Hlaingthaya Township closed down, claiming it was “difficult to keep things running”, leaving over 200 hundred workers suddenly jobless. Many have reported that the supermarket was not incurring any losses.

Source: Eleven Myanmar

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