Monday, September 25, 2017

National Unity Party promises to take up factory workers’ cause

The National Unity Party is trying hard to woo the factory workers’ vote.

A factory worker adds her suggestion for how to improve labour rights protections during a May 17 forum. (Zarni Phyo/The Myanmar Times)A factory worker adds her suggestion for how to improve labour rights protections during a May 17 forum. (Zarni Phyo/The Myanmar Times)

The party yesterday held a labour rights forum in Yangon’s Shwe Pyi Thar Industrial Zone where members pledged their solidarity and support for the workers’ cause. Politicians yielded the floor and lent their ear to union leaders and worker representatives, who used their day off to press the party on the minimum wage, a labour protection law and healthcare.

Among the scores of issues and gripes discussed at the open forum, one thing was clear: Myanmar workers are demanding better protection of their rights.

“There are so many issues to talk about with labour rights but the basic point is that the laws protecting workers are weak. So, whatever we demand, it won’t matter until the laws are reviewed,” said Myanmar Trade Unions Federation member Ko Naw Aung, who was among the hundreds of workers at the discussion.

The representatives managed to chisel their concerns into 41 points presented to the party.

“The party will report those points to parliament, issue a statement with the points and preserve them as party priorities,” said Ma Myo Myo Aye, a member of the NUP.

Party executive U Han Shwe pressed the importance of the factory worker voting bloc.

“We sponsored the forum because the labourers have big power to change the country and build it up. But the labourers don’t know the extent of their power,” he said.

Ma Moe Wai, head of the union at the Tiri Foot Factory in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, said she hopes that the party will really work to improve the situation for the workers and not just make hollow pre-elections promises.

“We need a just and fair resolution to labour disputes and all labour laws,” she said. “So we want this forum to result in workers’ needs really being represented.”

The NUP was established by former members of Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party after the latter was dissolved in 1988. It was the major opponent of the National League for Democracy in the 1990 election, winning 21.2 percent of the vote but just 10 seats. In 2010 it won 12 seats in the lower house and five in the upper house.