Overseas examples should inform minimum wage talks: employment minister

Workers at production line of a garment factory in Hlinethaya  Industrial Zone.
Workers at production line of a garment factory in Hlinethaya Industrial Zone.

The Union Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security has urged employers and workers to learn from the experiences of other countries as they work toward establishing a national minimum wage for Myanmar.
At a meeting between high-ranking officials of the ministry and employers Saturday, Union Minister
U Aye Myint said employers and workers must be practical both during the drafting process of the minimum wage and after its institution to avoid pushing companies outside the legal framework and into informal business.
“Today is the time for taking care of around 20 million workers,” U Aye Myint said. “Meanwhile, we should take lessons from Thailand, where small-scale factories have shut down, and from Cambodia, which saw factories move to Bangladesh after establishment of the minimum wage.”
The ministry-led body brokering the negotiations between employers and workers for establishment of the minimum wage will announce a proposed figure within one or two months, the Union Minister said. Those from affected sectors can object within 60 days of the announcement.
According to the rules and by-laws of the Minimum Wage Law, the minimum wage level can be amended within two years after its announcement.
More than 100 employers attended the meeting, with Myanmar’s high transportation costs their most common complaint.They expressed concern about getting a reasonable minimum wage and urged the government to decrease the country’s transportation costs in order to reduce commodity prices.
U Aye Lwin, Joint-Secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry has urged the government to help them decrease production costs so employers can institute a higher minimum wage for workers.
Transportation costs from Yangon to Chiang Mai are five times higher than the cost from Bangkok to Chaing Mai, indicating that the government must review its transportation policy, he added.
The employers complained that the cost of transporting a container from Yangon’s western industrial zone to the Thilawa Port Terminal costs around K600,000 (US $560), while transportation for the container from the port to Singapore costs only $70.
The Pyithu Hluttaw enacted the minimum wage law in March 2013 and the government approved the related by-laws in July 2013.
A survey was conducted in 108 townships by a national committee comprising governmental officials and representatives from employees and employers and included information on daily expenses of families, sizes of families, regional price indexes for basic commodities and income, as well as the occupations of able-bodied family members.
The official minimum wage for workers should not include bonuses, cost-of-living allowances and overtime fees, while working hours should be set at eight hours a day, a representative of the CTUM said.
Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann suggested Friday both employers and workers consider the daily wage level of K3,000 for government employees set by the Ministry of Finance and Revenue as a “standard” for setting the minimum wage level for workers.

Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security hold talks with employers over establishing a national minimum wage one day ahead of a meeting between the ministry and workers in Yangon.
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security hold talks with employers over establishing a national minimum wage one day ahead of a meeting between the ministry and workers in Yangon.
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