August 19, 2016

US, Canada back minimum wage — North America keen to see minimum wage adopted with ‘no exemptions’ in Myanmar

Workers in a production line at a garment factory in Yangon.—Photo: Aye Min Soe
Workers in a production line at a garment factory in Yangon.—Photo: Aye Min Soe

Yangon, 25 Aug — Garment and footwear industry bodies in the US and Canada have thrown their weight behind plans to establish a minimum wage for workers in Myanmar.
In a joint letter dated August 24, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), National Retail Federation (NRF), Footwear Distributions & Retailers of America (FDRA), Retail Council of Canada and US Fashion Industry Association expressed their support for a uniform minimum wage across all industries in letters to the Union Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security and the Chair of National Committee on the Minimum Wage.
On 18 July National Minimum Wage Committee proposed a minimum wage of K3,600 (US $3.17) for an eight-hour day to the government. A decision is expected to be announced on 29 August.
US and Canadian garment industry players said that Myanmar will benefit from increased foreign investment as investors will welcome the certainty a minimum wage confers.
“Rather than deterring international buyers, we believe that the uniform minimum wage established by your government — a minimum wage covering all industries (with no exemptions) negotiated by all parties through a regular, orderly, and transparent process— will attract international companies to buy garments and footwear from Myanmar,” said AAFA,  NRF, FDRA, RCC and USFIA in the letter.
The letter also stated that, “We all wish to see the readymade garment and footwear sectors flourish in Myanmar, creating investment and growth based on decent and safe employment conditions for Myanmar’s garment and shoe workers.” U Maung Maung, the President of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar and a member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has urged both employers and employees in Myanmar to work together to create stable and attractive industries for foreign investment.
U Myint Soe, Chairman of Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) welcomed the letter of encouragement from the US and Canada’s garment sector but declined to comment as to how the minimum wage would impact the future of the industry.
Dozens of major global brands expressed support for Myanmar’s proposed minimum wage immediately after it was announced mid-July, saying that guaranteed rates of pay will boost investment and improve living standards among the industry’s workers.
However several local factory bosses have been vocal in their criticisms of the proposed sum and have said that they will have to lay off workers in order to keep their businesses afloat.
Yangon Region Labour Minister U Zaw Aye Maung said earlier this month that the minimum wage should be implemented on a trial basis, with an option to amend it after two years.
The government first promised to set a minimum wage back in May 2012. The lengthy delays in implementing a minimum wage caused workers at several apparel factories to go on strike, with tensions escalating earlier this year. — GNLM


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