Minimum wage law still not cutting it for garment workers: report

December 2nd, 2016  •  Author:   Su Phyo Win/ The Myanmar Times  •  3 minute read

A new report on the state of the garment industry from Progressive Voice found that last year’s minimum wage law is causing negative workplace impacts for a majority of labourers and, for many, is still not resulting in a living wage.

The report, released yesterday by the rights-based policy research and advocacy organisation, also found that many workers face long hours with near-constant pressure and intimidation from factory owners and management. Nearly all workers said they were expected to work six days a week but when they took a day off, most faced disproportionate wage deductions.

Many took issue with the sanitation facilities and healthcare offerings of their employers.

Nearly every worker interviewed said the minimum wage policy, which went into effect on September 1, 2015, and sets the lowest salary threshold at K3600 (US$2.75) per day, is being followed, but 61 percent reported negative impacts from the policy. Two-thirds of those who reported negative impacts said it came in the form of harsher working conditions, in terms of expected output and strict regulations.

Half the workers reporting a negative impact said they had lost the opportunity to earn bonuses or other benefits.

The director of the Let’s Help Each Other civil society group, U Pyi Paing Ko Ko, said the minimum wage requirement has also served as a de facto “maximum wage” – it has become the highest rate of pay workers can expect upon entering the garment industry.

The Progressive Voice report is based on interviews with 199 workers, 87pc of whom are women.

U Kyaw Myo Htwe, who is involved in an independent cooperatives program for workers unions, said capital is being drawn into the garment industry thanks to a deep human resources pool and cheap labour. However, he said attracting foreign investment through the exploitation of workers is the wrong way to go about it.

Progressive Voice coordinator U Aung Khaing Min said rather than attracting foreign direct investment with low labour costs, it would better to lift wages where they are lowest in the world, in order to create benefits for workers locally and internationally.

“At this critical juncture in Myanmar’s reintegration into the world, the garment industry can play a key role in being a model for sustainability, but it must also fit into a broader, more equitable economic development of the country,” he said.

At the end of November, protesting factory workers called for the minimum wage to be lifted to K5600 in light of rising costs of living and inflation.

Vies this original article HERE.