Mining unions in Myanmar intend to set up health and safety committees at every mining operation in the country. The pledge follows a joint IndustriALL Global Union workshop earlier this month in the city of Monywa, Sagaing.
Thirty trade unionists took part in the first-ever workshop on occupational health and safety (OHS) in mining, a collaborative initiative between IndustriALL, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) and IndustriALL affiliate, the Mining Workers Federation of Myanmar (MWFM).
The unionists also agreed to capacity building and training to ensure effective functioning of the OHS committees, which will play a key role in communicating health and safety advice at mine sites.
“Myanmar is undergoing economic and political reform. Occupational health and safety is an important issue. We need to create a safe environment to work in,” CTUM president Maung Maung said.
Deputy Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security Htin Aung and Sagaing Region’s Minister of Mining and Forestry Than Htaik attended the inauguration of the meeting and welcomed the initiative. “The Factory Act exists, but at the moment there is no specific (health and safety) law for the mining and construction industry in Myanmar,” said Aung.
Myanmar’s mining industry employs more than 100,000 workers. According to the MWFM, which has nearly 4000 members, one Chinese run-copper mine in Letpaduang employs around 3000 workers alone. At present, there is no minimum wage in the mining industry in Myanmar and workers’ pay varies according to their job function and productivity level.
Workshop participants also agreed to reach out to unorganized mining sites to extend union coverage and protection to sub-contracted workers, daily workers and small-scale miners. Regular health check-ups, provision of personal protective equipment for all the workers working in the mines and other preventive measures were also part of the discussion and union proposals.
Speaking at the end of the workshop, MWFM president Thaung Nyunt said, “On behalf of MWFM, we express our deepest appreciation for this meaningful initiative which is the first step for progressive development in Myanmar.
“We need knowledge and information from international experts and we are committed to putting into practice what we have learned so that we can improve the working environment at the mine sites. The ILO Convention No. 176 is essential for developing health and safety in mines, and we are hopeful that it will be ratified by the government soon.”