Myanmar’s Industrial Workers Federation has called upon garment sector employers to accept the one-month shutdown as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across factories in the country. It has also demanded that workers be paid minimum wages during the lockdown period, IndustriALL Global reported.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the region, the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, along with the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar, has been holding discussions with the representatives of employers over the issue of shortage of raw materials, especially from neighboring China.
So far, 44 garment factories have been forced to close down in Myanmar, since February. This has led to as many as 22,000 workers being laid off. Myanmar is reportedly the second-worst hit after Cambodia because of its factories’ reliance on raw material from China. The situation is expected to worsen unless the spread of the virus is contained and measures to compensate the affected workers are taken up.
As many as 14 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Myanmar as of March 31, Monday, with no deaths reported.
The president of the Industrial Workers Federation, Khaing Zar, was quoted by Global IndustriALL as saying that the representatives of the workers’ body had put forward a number of demands, including stay-at-home leave with minimum wage from April 1-30 and wage subsidies for workers who have contracted COVID-19, “where 60% should be paid by the social security fund and 40% by the employers, but the government outrightly rejected our proposal”.
The employers had proposed to the unions and to the government that garment workers take unpaid leaves throughout the self-imposed shutdown period. However, both the unions and the government rejected the proposal.
As the negotiations on workers’ social security funds, electricity subsidy, soft loans, etc. are still going on, the unions have not reached any agreement with the government. Meanwhile, all public gatherings remain suspended in the country till April 30, including for the upcoming three-day nationwide traditional New Year Thingyan Water festival. Thousands of workers are concerned about their future if the government does not intervene to support those affected.