Burma

Myanmar Workers to Push for Higher Minimum Wage

By Thazin Hlaing 29 November 2019

YANGON—The Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM) is bringing a proposal to raise the minimum wage from 4,800 kyats (US$3.19) to 7,200 kyats per day to the National Committee for the Minimum Wage.

The CTUM recently conducted surveys in Yangon, Bago, Mandalay, Sagaing and Magwe regions and Shan, Kachin and Karen states, calculating the average costs families have to spend on food, housing, healthcare and education. The survey covered people working in manufacturing, construction, mining, logging, agriculture and cargo loading at ports.

The proposed rate, equal to 900 kyats per hour for an eight-hour work day, is based on these surveys, according CTUM central committee member U Win Zaw.

The CTUM will also negotiate with other labor rights organizations to adjust the new rate, he said.

“We will discuss it with others to reach a consensus. We will demand 7,200 kyats per day. Compared with big economies, this is still not a good wage but it is a fair wage,” said U Win Zaw. 

“A pyi of rice [2.56 liters] costs at minimum 1,600 kyats. Meat costs 2,000 kyats without buying any oil or onion. This is already 3,500, or 4,000 kyats including pocket money for children. Expenses are a minimum of 7,000 kyats a day. Rent on a house is 50,000 kyats [per month] and the electricity bill is 5,000 kyats,” said Ma Nan Khin Hmwe, who works at a garment factory. 

Labor organizations are set to meet on Nov. 30 to discuss the framework for another survey on the minimum wage, according to Ko Thet Hnin Aung, general secretary of the Myanmar Infrastructure, Craft and Service (MICS) labor organization. 

“We will determine the content of the survey with the common consensus,” said Ko Thet Hnin Aung.

But U Win Zaw said it’s unlikely the new rate will be set at 7,200 kyats per day.

“As there is a large gap between the current rate and the proposed rate, it will be a major challenge when we hold tripartite talks between the representatives of the government, employers and employees at the national level,” U Win Zaw said.

The Minimum Wage Law was enacted in March 2013 and rules were introduced in July of that year.

Myanmar set a minimum wage for the first time in September 2015, at 450 kyats per hour and 3,600 kyats for an eight-hour working day, regardless of the location and type of job.

Despite labor organizations’ calls to increase the minimum wage to 5,600 kyats, the government set the new rate at 4,800 kyats in May 2018. 

The 2013 law mandates that the government adjust the minimum wage every two years, with the next mandatory rate adjustment to come in May 2020.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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