August 13, 2017

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Good start will lead to goal of safe work sites

The government, workers and employer representatives in Myanmar are celebrating May Day today, a commemoration of the achievements of the labour movement.
History has unfortunately witnessed 20-hour working days in the 1800s and the inhumane employment of children. Dissatisfied with the situation of workers, an effort to officially recognise an 8-hour working day was launched in Chicago, Illinois in the United States in 1886. As a result, the standard working hour for workers was set at eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. To honour the efforts of the workers, International Workers Day has been marked yearly since then for over 120 years.
For Myanmar workers, May Day is also a meaningful and auspicious occasion, as G7 selected Myanmar about three months ago as their first country for development programmes, focusing on several issues including the prevention of work-related accidents, insurance and compensation, rehabilitation as well as capacity building programmes in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour,  Immigration and Population.
Myanmar is marching towards a peaceful and safe working environment with good relations among the tripartite force of the government, employees and employers. This will enable workers to enjoy the legal rights, be assured of a safe work site and work culture to mitigate workplace injuries, create job opportunities at home and abroad, introduce safe labour migration, conduct on-the-job training to be able to strengthen competitiveness among workers, implement a social welfare plan which will provide social protection and healthcare to workers with social welfare insurance, and settle labour disputes through the tripartite system based on free and fair negotiations. Moreover, obsolete laws will be revoked, repealed or amended.
For achieving the goal of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), we should pay attention to the capacity-building of the officials and worksite safety and health of workers at small and medium enterprises and to assist in OHS at factories with large labour forces such as garment factories.
Meanwhile, when we form policy, we should also take into consideration workers at the basic level such as in the municipal services and mining sectors.
Myanmar still faces problems, and there is a long way to go before the country achieves the well-resourced industrial relations system that it needs. But government, workers and employers can be proud of the very good start they have made.

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