Global union watchdog reports abuses of Myanmar workers' rights to ILO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Myanmar trade unionists have been arrested and harassed in door to door searches, while others are hiding in fear, the International Labour Organization said after receiving a formal complaint from the world’s largest trade union federation.

FILE PHOTO: People flash a three-finger salute as they take part in an anti-coup night protest at Hledan junction in Yangon, Myanmar, March 14, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported widespread restrictions on workers’ rights imposed by Myanmar’s military since the Feb. 1 coup, a document dated March 11, prepared for the ILO’s Governing Body, shows.

Myanmar security forces fired on pro-democracy demonstrators on Monday killing six people, media and witnesses said, a day after dozens of protesters were shot dead and attackers torched several Chinese-financed factories in the city of Yangon.

“Complaints have been received from workers who have been threatened and intimidated due to their absence from work and participation in the CDM (civil disobedience movement),” said the ILO.

There was no immediate reply from Myanmar’s mission in Geneva to a Reuters request for comment.

The U.N. agency, which monitored forced labour for years in the country, still has programmes there addressing child labour.

Military authorities have curtailed freedoms of speech and assembly, blocked social media and declared 16 labour-related organisations illegal, leaving three registered trade union confederations, the ILO said.

The ITUC lodged a complaint on March 5 to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association “concerning widespread violation of freedom of association and basic civil liberties by the Myanmar military”, it said of the Brussels-based body.

ILO’s Governing Body is to review the complaint on March 22.

The forum - composed of representatives from states, employers’ groups and workers organisations - is to consider a draft resolution expressing “grave concern about the arrest, intimidation and threats against trade unionists, as well as the declaration that 16 labour organizations were illegal”.

The military should drop any charges against trade unions who have peacefully participated in protests, the resolution says.

ILO director-general Guy Ryder - a former ITUC head - last month issued statements calling for a halt to the intimidation of workers and restoration of civilian rule.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie