Cecilia Brighi CISL:intervento a Conferenza OIL, su Conv. 87. Violazione della Libertà di organizzazione sindacale
Burma Violation of Convention 87 on Freedom of association
Italian Worker representative
ILO Conference 2005
Committee on Application of Standards
Thank you Chair,
is frankly more than embarrassing, that such issue is once again
discussed in this Committee. Last year the committee decided to set
aside the conclusions once again in a Special paragraph on continued
failure to apply the Convention.
the Report of the Committee of Expert, it appears clear that the
government of Burma has no willingness at all to adopt any of the
changes requested. In fact the Expert report highlights that "the
government did not send any of the requested information particularly
on the concrete means adopted to ensure improved conformity with the Convention".
the Government declares that the Trade Union Act is still in force and
that no restrictions have been imposed on workers freedom organisation.
Unfortunately this is not the case. Sorry to say for the people of Burma, but the situation is completely different.
the 1964 legislation and other laws and orders examined by this
Committee for many years, and the following military decrees and orders
are in force. Such laws and orders prohibits and punish brutally, those
who try to organise any form of democratic organisation.
I just want to briefly summarise once again the key legislative element:
on 18 September 1988, the date of the military coup, the SLORC issued the Order n. 2/88 . which prohibits any activity by five persons or more, such as “gathering,
waking or marching in procession, chanting slogans, delivering
speeches… regardless of whether the act is with the intention of
creating disturbances of committing crime or not”.
this is even more severe when read in conjunction with the 1908 Unlawful Association Act
which states in Section 17.1 that “whoever is a member of an unlawful association, or takes part in meetings… shall be punished with imprisonment of non less than 2 years”.
On 30 September 1988 the military regime issued Order 6/88,
known as the “law on the Formation of Associations and Organisations”.
This Order has been at the attention of the Conference Committee on
Application of Standards for many years. This order states that to operate, all ”organisations shall apply for permissions to the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs” and provides in Section 3 (c), that “organisations that are not permitted shall not form or continue to exist and pursue activities”.
Section 2 (b) defines the organisations subject to such procedure: “an
association, society, union, party, committee, federation, group of
associations,.. and similar organisation that is formed with a group of
people for an objective or a program either with or without a
particular name” This Order applies also to workers’ and employers’ organisations.
More over, no mechanism is foreseen for appeal against the decision, denying permission for an organisation to be established.
provides that persons who violate the order “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years” while persons who are “found
guilty of being a member of, or aiding an and abetting or using the
paraphernalia of organisations that are not permitted to for under section 3 (c) or Section 5 can be jailed up to three years”.
government is also reporting once again, that there are several
associations of workers in Burma. Again we have to recall what the
Committee on Freedom of Association has already stated: that such
associations " are not substitute for free and independent trade unions" and that they "have none of the attribute characteristics of free and independent workers organisation".
The reality is that the legitimate trade union organisation: the FTUB is impeded to exist freely, and the workers are
not allowed to form and join union of their choice. On the contrary
they are persecuted or arbitrarily arrested. More over, the General Secretary of the FTUB: Maung Maung has been repeatedly accused of terrorism even in these august room.
FTUB, on the contrary, obliged by the existing law, to operate in a
clandestine manner, nevertheless has succeeded to organise workers on large scale, inside the country, both in agriculture and in the industrial and service sector.
It has formed clandestine trade unions which try to protect workers from the continuous deep violation of fundamental human and workers rights, by the junta.
is time that the junta stops accusations and threatening against the
General Secretary of FTUB Maung Maung and the other trade union
leaders. Only few days ago, we have discussed in the special sitting
the still existing accusations against Shwe Man, the trade union leader
arrested last year with the false accusation of high treason for his
contact with the ILO and the FTUB. Notwithstanding his
final release, after been condemned to death penalty, subsequently
reduced to life imprisonment, still such inconceivable accusation is
requests have been done already in the previous discussions, but the
reality has remained unchanged. The legislation has not being modified
and is still strictly implemented against those trade unionists and
workers, who try to organise and to respond to the very dreadful exploitative conditions in which they are obliged to work.
was the case at the Myanmar Guston Moline Co. Ltd, a French owned
factory, located in the Hlaing Thar Yar industrial zone 3. On 9 April, a factory representative told the workers that the 5.000 kyats annual bonus for the Burmese New Year could not be paid . the 450
workers went on strike and asked to negotiate with the owner of the
company. Such request was refused. The chairman of Township Peace and
Development Council of Hlaing Tharyar intervened and both workers and the owner came to an agreement. On 18th of April, 4
women workers were arrested by the police who were brought to the
famous Insein prison. the workers of the Guston Moline factory went on
strike demanding the release of their co
workers. The day afterwards the strike was continuing when both
military and police led by major Tin San arrived announcing the closure
of the factory for an indefinite period and threatened the workers of
arrest, later on the Commander of the Rangoon Division General Myint
Swe arrived with 9 lockup trucks for transporting prisoners, and told
the workers to leave the compound immediately or they would ne forcibly removed and arrested. the
four workers were released on the 2nd of May. After such strike many
workers were dismissed. Now the factory has only 300 workers.
We know of some recent cases of arrests or closure of companies, in response to workers unrests because they were asking for improvement of the incredible working conditions and poor salaries. Many workers are still in jail, condemned to rigorous work (which is a polite way to describe forced prison labour).
I want to recall the case of Myo Aung Thant condemned
to life imprisonment for trade union activities, and of his wife Aye
Ma, who after having spent seven years in the terrible Insein Jail, is
now not even allowed to write to her husband.
May 21 we have been informed by the Sea Farers Union of Burma: SUB,
that one of his organisers Koe Moe Naung has been arrested on May 19th at
8 pm at his residence in Ranong at the border with Burma, by two
unidentified men, brought to a Village based Light Infantery Regiment
431 and tortured to death during interrogation.
Koe Moe was a trade union leader who was organising Burmese fishermen
and migrant workers from Burma in the Ranong province.
Gathering on occasion of May the 1st have been repressed, as well as other unrests to protest against the working conditions. For those who are not oblidged to forced labor, avarage salary in Burma reaches 4/5 US$ a month and working time is of 48 hours per week, plus 12/ 15 hours of overtime which
would be paid at 0.02 US$ each hour if only the companies would be able
to pay. In fact due to strict bank regulations, after the 2003 bank
crisis, companies cannot withdraw more than 200.000 Kyats per week,
that is 200 US$. In such conditions most of the time salaries as well
as overtime cannot be paid.
The junta claims that these situation is due to economic sanctions.
This is not true. On the contrary, since all the economy is in the
hands of the junta, who drains all the profits, only deep changes in
the economic structure and in the legislation, could bring real
benefit to the life of the Burmese working people and to the economy.
On top of that 49% of the national budget is allocated to the military
and 30% of the GDP now goes directly to the military.
In this regard, to take further time the government has repeatedly
declared that Burma is a country in transition and that the issue of
freedom of association was going to be examined by the National
Convention which should have elaborated the new Constitution.
Unfortunately we do not see any transition, but the continuation of a
brutal regime, that denies all kind of freedoms and that continue to maintain its power thanks to harsh military control of all the society and the economy.
Once again, such justification was already presented by the government in 1989. They said that: “mayor
political changes are currently under way in Burma. In particular the
former single party system is in the process of being transformed into
a multi-party system”.
I recall once again that in 1991 after the March 1990 democratic elections, won by the NLD, the government communicated to the Committee that: “even though there has been no formal amendment or repeal made to the Act n.6 of 1964 and Regulation N.5 of 1976 they became automatically defunct.”
The government representative declared also that: “ general elections had been recognised as one of the most free and fair elections.” And recognised that “ the provisions of the law concerning the formation of workers’ organisation in his country, restricted the creation of trade unions to a single trade union structure which was contrary to the provisions of articles 2,5 and 6 of the Convention”.
We all know what is the true reality. We cannot forget that the leader
of the party who won the election: the Nobel Prize Aung San Suu Kyi, is
still in house arrest since 9 years and that thousands of political
prisoners and trade unionists are in jail since years for the very
reason or violating such legislation.
Again in 1992 the government indicated that the Trade Union Act is the one among the existing labour law, which have now been redrafted to meet the new trends prevailing in this country with the enactment of these new labour laws trade union rights will prevail” the Government also declared that “ in conformity with Declaration
n. 11/92 of 24 April 1992 his government will meet the elected
representatives of Parliament to decide on the convocation of a
national Convention” and that “ the new constitution will incorporate the rights of all workers to form their own independent trade unions in conformity with the democratic system.”
In 1993 the government stated that “ after the emergence of new Constitution various laws would have to be reviewed so as to be brought into line with it. However during the transitional period the workers’ rights were being ensured by legislation still in force”
We all know that nothing happened both as far as the legislative changes and in practice.
more than 16 years, the military government of Burma is promising to
adopt a new constitution in which the issue of freedom of association
should have been targeted,. but nothing has happened.
More than a decade passed since the democratic elections, which has never been recognised by the junta, and still we are listening from the government the same promises, that have not been maintained
new national Convention started last year, and suspended again in
March, has been deeply criticised as unrepresentative and undemocratic not only by the democratic Burmese organisations and the NLD, but also by
governments and parliaments from all over the world, including in the
region itself by many members of the ASEAN, due to its unrepresentative
process and predefined conclusions, which would not put into question the power of the junta.
For all the above mentioned reasons we ask for a Special Paragraph on continued failure to apply the Convention. The government of Burma has to put into practice, immediately and without any further delay the conclusions of the Committee on Freedom of Association and of the Committee of Experts, thus using the expertise of the ILO freedom of association branch.
in the preparation of the May day celebrations, organized in a
clandestine way, due to the total denial of freedom of association, in
violation of Convention 87, Saw Thoo Di, a Karen Agriculture Workers
Union organizer has been arrested, accused of being the supporter of
the KNU, tortured and finally killed on April 28, 2005 at Nah Htee Klo,
Kya-Inn Township, Karen State, just before the May Day celebration. On that occasion in the same area, Burmese regimes infantry battalion 308, attacked with heavy artillery a trade union gathering at Pha Pyat