Myanmar Govt Offers to Pay Factory Workers 40% During COVID-19 Inspection Closures

By Thazin Hlaing 30 April 2020

Yangon — Myanmar’s Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population says it will provide 40 percent of workers’ salaries where factories have been closed since April 20 for COVID-19 inspections.

Workers must be registered with the government social safety net and compensation will be based on the days their factories were closed.

Factories across Myanmar closed from April 10-19 for the Thingyan holiday and were due to reopen on April 20 only for the Ministry of Labor to say that they must remain closed until their coronavirus preventative measures had been inspected.

Factories were required to make marks to keep employees six feet apart, provide washbasins, masks and gloves, conduct temperature screening at the entrances and ensure safe distancing measures on ferries among other measures.

Only the factories that meet the requirements will be allowed to resume operations, said the ministry. This led to pay disputes with employees insisting they were paid for that period and employers saying they could not afford to pay while factories had been idle for most of April.

The Labor Ministry then said that it would grant certain social security benefits for employees registered with the Social Security Board.

“It won’t take long with us when we receive claims [for social security payment from factories]. We will check if the dates and the periods of closure are correct. And if they are, we will provide payments right away,” U Maung Maung Aye, director-general of the Social Security Board, told The Irrawaddy.

Ma Phyo Sandar Soe, assistant general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar, said: “I am grateful to the government for granting 40 percent of salaries while it previously appeared that employees would get nothing.”

However, she said she is concerned some employers might exploit social security payments.

Some businesses may claim for social security payments from the government while they gave casual or annual leave to staff for the inspection period, she said. In that case, employees would lose their leave entitlements.

“If employers grant casual or annual leave, they have to pay for it, but not the government. And some employers may claim for social security benefits while they didn’t really close their factories,” she said.

U Maung Maung, however, said the SSB is making checks based on the reports of the Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection and the government COVID-19 inspection reports to make sure there were no false claims.

Since March 23, Myanmar has reported 150 COVID-19 cases. Six people have died and 27 have recovered, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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