Mon 10 Sep 2012
Filed under: Business / Trade,Inside Burma,News
YANGON: About 1,000 textile workers marched through Myanmar’s main city Yangon on Friday to demand increased pay, in the latest show of labour activism following the end of decades of military rule.
Long silenced under the generals who ran the country for almost half a century until last year, Myanmar’s workforce is now daring to speak out to call for better wages and conditions.
The protesters walked for several hours from their factory to a government labour office in Yangon. Police did not intervene even though the demonstrators did not have official permission.
“I’m here to ask for a salary increase,” said a female worker who said she earned about $90 a month including overtime.
“When other factories faced protests, our employers persuaded us not to demonstrate and promised they would take care of us. But they just gave us a bottle of cooking oil. Nothing else,” she said.
Hundreds of employees at other factories went on strike earlier this year demanding improved working conditions, picketing outside the plants.
New legislation allows workers to strike when employers have been given advance notice, and to form unions. Experts say many workers know they now have the right to strike but have little understanding of the new rules. Meanwhile, a medical doctor has become the first woman appointed as a full cabinet minister in the country.
President Thein Sein said on his website that Myat Myat Ohn Khin has been named minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement. She is among 11 new ministers appointed to fill posts vacated in a major Cabinet reshuffling last month. Other women in the cabinet are deputy ministers.
New ministers of defence, finance, and national planning and economic development also were named on Friday. The appointments added four civilians to the government, bringing their total to one-fourth of the 36-member cabinet that remains dominated by retired military officers.
Last month’s cabinet reshuffling was widely considered a move by Thein Sein to consolidate power after coming to office last year.