Capital: Nay Pyi Taw
Population: 53.44m. (2014 est.)

Myanmar ratified ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) in 1955, but is yet to ratify Convention No. 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949).

For decades the military authorities prevented trade union activities, while the use of forced labour attracted intense criticism internationally from unions and human rights organisations. In 1998 the ILO Conference condemned the government for its continuing failure to observe Convention No. 87. The same year an ILO Commission of Inquiry found the regime guilty of the use of forced labour on a massive scale, including transportation of supplies for the military, and the building of roads, railways and bridges. In 2000, for the only time in its history, the ILO used its Article 33 procedures to call upon Myanmar to ‘take concrete action’ to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.

From the late 2000s a series of reforms saw the legalisation of trade union activities and the introduction of a democratic political system. The new labour law framework provides for collective bargaining at enterprise level and as well as at sectoral or national level, but federation structures and union competition still limit most bargaining activity to workplace level. Strikes are legal, but are prohibited during a dispute settlement process which disputes are channelled into after 5 days.

Legal reforms were followed by a significant proliferation of union organisations: in 2013, the government reported 264 local level labour organisations had been formed; by 2015 more than 1500 were reported. The Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) was run for decades as an exile group but has returned to establish itself as the country's principle trade union centre, with a reported 60,000 members. Several independent unions exist, the largest among them being the Agriculture and Farmers Federation of Myanmar-IUF (AFFM-IUF), rivalling the CTUM in terms of membership, with 52,000 members. It is affiliated to the international foodworkers union IUF.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Myanmar, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: anti-union dismissals (2019)



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