Embracing the power to strike
Labour activism is on the increase in Myanmar, as a disgruntled workforce takes advantage of new legislation that allows workers to form unions and strike, if employers have been given advanced notice.
In a recent show of solidarity, about 1,000 garment workers took to the streets of Yangon to demand higher wages – a move that would have been impossible just a few years ago. Late last year, the government overturned a draconian 1962 Trades Union Act that banned trade unions across the country.
As Thein Sein’s government loosens its grip on the country, its workforce is now finding its voice under legislation considered one of the most progressive in the region.
In May, the owners of the Yangon Crown Steel factory gave in to pressure to increase salaries after 40 of 200 protestors went on hunger strike. Widespread factory strikes in Yangon rapidly spread to Mandalay.
As international firms line up to enter Myanmar, it is likely that workers emboldened by their new-found power will increasingly embrace their ability to strike in their quest for better pay and working conditions.