Workers Seek Minimum Wage Hike Amid Delay in Government Review

Workers in the country are seeking an increase in the minimum wage amid a rise in the prices of basic commodities and services as the government review of the current wage faces delays.

Factory workers have protested and demanded the government increase the daily minimum wage to K5600 (US$4.11) from the current K3600.

The government implemented the nationwide minimum wage on September 2015. But since its implementation factory workers complained management has cut their benefits to reduce labour costs, which is a violation of the spirit of the law.

According to the Minimum Wages Act 2013, the minimum wage has to be reviewed within two years after it is fixed, but so far National Minimum Wages Committee has not come up with a decision on the issue.

According to some members, the committee held only two meetings since it was established in February and was scheduled to hold a third meeting at end of September.

U Naw Aung , a member of national minimum wage committee, told The Myanmar Timesthere could be a delay in fixing a new minimum wage because of the processes that need to be undertaken.

‘’The government should push to fix a new minimum wage as soon as possible as many of the ongoing labour disputes depend on it,” he said.

Daw Khine Zar Aung, another member of national minimum wage committee, said the introduction of a new minimum wage could be delayed until February next year.

“The wage should have come out this month, but we could not do it. We are just planning to discuss it in the coming months,” she said.

She added the committee is trying its best to come up with a proposed new minimum wage before the end of this year.

‘’We can announce proposed wages when we get suggestions from a survey by a sub-committee, “she said.

Daw Khine Zar Aung said the committee has already ordered a survey, and its results will be submitted before the end of August.

According to Labour Department senior officer U Soe Win, the department is planning to implement a proposed pilot minimum wage and has directed all state and regional committees to submit it before the end of September to the department.

“Actually the survey has not yet started, but we are trying to come up with a pilot rate of the minimum wage by the end of September,” he told The Myanmar Times.

In December last year, a new report on the state of the garment industry from Progressive Voice, a non-governmental organisation, found that the minimum wage law is causing negative impacts on workplaces for a majority of labourers, and, for many, it is still not enough for a living wage.

Global trade unions noted that the retrenchment of workers and closure of factories following the implementation of the minimum wage are normal road bumps along a well-travelled route to fairer labour practices.

Labour activists said the national committee must also consider price controls on basic commodities to prevent price hikes following the increase in the minimum wage.

“Unless something is done to stop increases in living expenses, soon workers will be unable to survive,” said Ma Hla Hla, a labour union representative for garment factories in Hlaing Thar Yar township.

U Khin Maung Nyo, a business analyst, said the existing minimum wage is inadequate due to rising inflation. However, one should also consider the slowdown in economic growth.

“It needs practical discussion and thinking. The minimum wage should be a rate that benefits all applicable sectors,” he said.

Source: The Myanmar Times

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