Back ILO inquiry on Burma, says TUC

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Back ILO inquiry on Burma, says TUC


Trade unions have long been banned in Burma. Their members have been jailed, tortured or killed. The Burmese regime is making noises about reform, but without serious international pressure the situation is unlikely to change. That's why unions globally are calling for an International Labour Organisation (ILO) Commission of Inquiry to deliver real change.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne calling on the UK Government to support an ILO Commission of Inquiry into violations of Freedom of Association in Burma during the upcoming Governing Body meeting in November.

For more information see:

ITUC briefing on ILO Commission on Inquiry on Burma

3 October 2011

Jeremy Browne MP

Minister of State

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Jeremy

Burma and an ILO commission of inquiry

On behalf of the TUC, I call on the UK government, as a member of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Governing Body, to support the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Freedom of Association in Burma.

As you will be aware, freedom of association has long been denied in law and practice in Burma (Myanmar), despite years of strong criticism by the international community, especially through the ILO.

While a new trade union law is under consideration by Burma's parliament, trade unions have not been consulted on it. Text seen by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) contains serious deficiencies, including the absence of the full right to collective bargaining, and the potential politicisation of the union registration process, among many others. The law is also fragmented and vague, leaving it wide open to abuse in Burma's repressive political climate. Further, the 2008 Constitution, the foundation of any new law, could be invoked to severely curtail many of the rights that could be established in a new law. Prior acts, orders and declarations, which appear to remain in force, severely limit the right of freedom of association in Burma.

In practice, workers who have engaged in trade union activity in Burma have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured, 'disappeared' or killed, as has been extensively documented. There are at least 54 labour and trade union activists in prison in Burma today. Our sister organisation the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB) has been banned, exiled and dubbed a terrorist organisation by the regime. The repression continues today.

Experience shows that without significant and sustained additional pressure, meaningful changes in law and in practice in Burma will most likely remain elusive. This is the key lesson of an earlier ILO Commission of Inquiry into forced labour in Burma that led to the establishment of an ILO office and programme in Burma - the only UN agency to make material progress on a human rights issue in the country

These are the reasons why an ILO Commission of Inquiry, as called for by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its affiliate, the FTUB, is urgently needed. A Commission could identify the steps necessary to bring Burma's constitution and labour laws into compliance with international labour standards, as well as outline those needed to ensure effective implementation in practice. It could be a catalyst for the release of trade union prisoners, and to create the space for legitimate trade unions to operate more freely in Burma. I am attaching an ITUC briefing on the subject which outlines the case in more detail.

We strongly urge the UK to support this call at the upcoming November 2011 session of the Governing Body, and to urge other members of the Governing Body to do the same.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely


General Secretary

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