Govt, Employers, Employees Set to Meet to Discuss Minimum Wage

By Thazin Hlaing 6 December 2017

YANGON — The government will meet with employer and employee representatives later this month in hopes of bridging the wide gap between the two groups’ competing proposals for a new minimum wage.

“We plan to hold a forum in the third week of December in Yangon. Parliamentary committees will also be present,” U Win Shein, director-general of the Directorate of Labor at the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, told The Irrawaddy.

Employees have proposed a new rate of 5,600 kyats (about $4.11) for an eight-hour work day, a significant increase over the current rate of 3,600 kyats. Employers have proposed a new rate of approximately 4,000 kyats.

U Khin Maung Aye, chairman of a garment manufacturers association at the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, called the employees’ proposal “unreasonable.”

“Roughly speaking, it should be fine to pay around 4,000 kyats. We can’t afford to pay more than that. If we do, we will go into the red,” he said.

However, the average daily expense of an individual worker is around 6,600 kyats, according to a survey by the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM).

“We will hold discussions and propose a rate based on that fact,” Ko Win Zaw, a CTUM central executive committee member, told The Irrawaddy.

On Sunday, hundreds of workers staged protests in Yangon and Mandalay to demand a 5,600 kyats minimum wage.

In February, the National Minimum Wage Committee, tasked with determining the minimum wage, was reformed with economists, officials of relevant ministries and representatives from labor and employer groups.

Since then it has met three times. It met most recently in October, when minimum wage committees from the regions and states discussed their survey results and tentatively agreed to a new rate of between 4,000 and 4,800 kyats.

According to the Directorate of Labor, the coming meeting is likely to finalize the rate, which will then be sent to Parliament for approval.

The Minimum Wage Law was enacted in March 2013. The current wage of 3,600 kyats came into effect on Sept. 1 the same year.

It applies nationwide to workers across all sectors, except small and family-run businesses that employ fewer than 15 people.

According to the law a new rate must be set every two years.