When UnionAID was established in 2009 trade unions were illegal in Myanmar. Our friends in the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB) like Min Lwin and Htwe Nge lived in exile on the Thai border, unable to return to their homes from fear of imprisonment by the military junta.
Since 2012, when Myanmar moved towards democratic government and the laws forbidding freedom of association were lifted, there has been a surge to establish unions. However, it is still largely a hostile environment and the need for basic training for workers, organisers and office holders is essential.
UnionAID has supported emerging unions of hotel workers, nurses and trishaw drivers to establish themselves, but it is an uphill battle, as evidenced by the nurses’ union that is struggling to survive despite the committed efforts of members. The Myanmar Railway Workers Federation is now over 2,000 strong, has successfully campaigned to secure over 600 workers permanent jobs.