Myanmar military legacy lingers for railway workers
In spite of moves towards democracy in Myanmar since 2011, the legacy of the military regime still lingers on, as Wayne Butson, General Secretary of the New Zealand Rail and Maritime Union, found when he visited the country recently. Wayne was there to forge links between railway workers here and their fellow unionists in Myanmar who are learning how to organise for decent work, thanks to a UnionAID pilot project.
Government departments in Myanmar are typically headed by retired ex-army officers. This means that there is often little support for – or downright hostility towards – union activity. As a result, Wayne reported, the unionists from the Insein workshop in Yangon could meet with him only after they finished work at 5pm. In marked contrast, executive members from two Mandalay unions, where the railway managers are civilians, were given two days off to travel to Yangon to meet with the delegation. One manager also brought back union material for his workers from a recent visit to Germany.
Wayne reported that the organising project is going well. Union membership is now over 1000 thanks to monthly training workshops run by Min Lwin, our project partner in Yangon.