A proposal to form a committee to investigate worker strikes, which took place in Rangoon factories to demand wages hikes over the past year, was rejected by Burma’s Lower House of Parliament after a vote on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy after the decision, Thein Nyunt, a Lower House MP for the New Democracy Party, said he proposed forming the new committee in order to keep tabs on the current political and economic situation.
Labor Minister Aung Kyi said in the Parliament session that, “labor laws are already enacted and it needs some time to be in effective. Therefore, there is no need to form such an investigation committee.”
But Thein Nyunt replied that sidelining the issue will not bring benefits to workers. “It is not enough just enacting a law,” he said. “Although there are labor councils for workers in accordance with the 1964 Labor Rights and Responsibilities Act, the workers strikes emerged since 1974 as a political issue.”
He added that it is difficult for Burma to move forward towards parliamentary democracy if people continue to deny there is a labor problem in the country.
Opposition parliamentarians Myint Thein, the National League for Democracy MP for Magwe constituency, and Khine Maung Yi, the National Democratic Front MP for Rangoon’s Alone constituency , backed Thein Nyunt’s call. Aung Thein Lin, the controversial Unity Solidarity and Development Party MP for Rangoon’s South Oakkalapa constituency, spoke against the move.
The proposal was rejected by just 43 votes in favor compared with 288 against and 17 abstentions. But Thein Nyunt said the proposal can be resubmitted during the next parliamentary session.
Aung Thein Lin, who is currently being investigated for a damning interview in China’s Southern Weekly journal, said that officials at the Ministry of Labor were working hard to solve strike issues, according to the Parliament website.
He explained that 90 factories, mostly in Rangoon, went in strike in May and June but all are now back on track after officials helped in negotiations between the employers and employees.
In June, the Ministry of Labor imposed a minimum wage for workers, Aung Thein Lin added, and more than 100 worker associations have been formed in accordance with the new Labor Association law and bylaws.
Meanwhile, the Minimum Wage Bill is due to be discussed in Parliament this month.