The secretary-general of the Federation of Trade Unions Myanmar (FTUM) became the first Burmese member elected to the International Labour Organization’s governing body last week during the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva.
FTUM secretary-general Maung Maung, who was elected on 2 June, said the Burmese delegation participated in a discussion on Convention No. 29, which prohibits the use of forced labour.
While Burma had ratified Convention No. 29 in 1995, a 1998 inquiry by the ILO showed that the use of forced labour in the country was “widespread and systematic”. This finding prompted the international body to recommend that international companies cease all activities that could abet the practice of forced labour. These restrictions were lifted last year.
“We joined a discussion on a proposal to consider workers who provide work against their will in factories, and migrant workers who are forced to take up overseas jobs that are different from what they were previously promised as examples of forced labour,” Maung Maung said, adding that his role in the ILO’s governing body was limited.
“What will I be able to do for Burma as a member of the ILO governing body? Nothing!” Maung Maung said. “However, as we have a mandate to deal with general labour issues relevant to each and every country, we can raise these with the Burmese government in an effort to sign an agreement regarding forced labour according to the ILO convention that is in line with any changes and recent developments.”
The ILO governing body is made up of 56 titular members and 66 deputy members, all of whom are reappointed every three years. The 103rd International Labour Conference will go on until Thursday.