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Thank you, Chairperson.
The Candidate Countries Montenegro[*] and Albania* align themselves with this statement.
The EU and its Member States attach great importance to human rights, including freedom of association, of assembly and abolition of forced labour. We support the indispensable role played by the ILO in developing, promoting and supervising the application of international labour standards and of fundamental Conventions in particular. The EU and its Member States are committed to the promotion of universal ratification, implementation and enforcement of the core labour standards.
We thank the ILO for its constant engagement in promoting labour rights in Burma/Myanmar. In this regard, we note the positive progress the country has made on the Decent Work Agenda during the past years, notably with the institutionalization of tripartite dialogue in the country with the successful set-up of the National Tripartite Dialogue Forum (NTDF) and the signature of the new Decent Work Country Programme.
We also welcome the government’s policy aiming at promoting decent work through responsive investments policies.
We welcome the positive dialogue between the EU and its Member States and the government on improving labour rights in the country. The EU and its Member States reconfirm their strong commitment to support the country in this regard. In February 2019, the EU had a high-level mission to the country in the context of the enhanced engagement under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences arrangement for Least Developed Countries (‘Everything But Arms’). This provided the opportunity for a comprehensive dialogue with national authorities, including on labour rights issues.
Following this dialogue, we would like to express our deep concern over a certain number of issues:
Cases of forced labour by the Tatmadaw army are still being reported and were confirmed by the independent fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council, particularly in Kachin and Shan States, as well as among the ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya. With the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State and clashes in Shan State, it is likely that the use of forced labour continues. Moreover, after the expiry of the Supplementary Understanding in December 2018, no complaints mechanism has been put in place to take over the ILO mechanism for cases of forced labour. The government had committed to create a national mechanism, but it is yet to fulfil this commitment.
The other area of great concern to us is the labour law reform. The ILO direct contacts mission had provided a number of critical recommendations so as to bring the labour law in conformity with ILO Conventions. We are very disappointed that these amendments have not been taken into account by the Members of the Parliament. Indeed, if the current draft law were to be adopted unchanged, it would represent a step backwards compared to the current law and grave breaches of international labour standards.
Latest developments with regard to the situation of trade unionists and trade unions are also very worrying: we are very concerned by the recent charges against trade unionists in Mandalay because of their role in leading demonstrations out of their district of origin. We also point to the fact that the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law has not been reviewed as recommended by the ILO direct contact mission. Reported cases of dismissal and discrimination of trade unionists and workers who wanted to register as trade unions also raise our concern, as well as bureaucratic hurdles in the registration process, as this situation has pressured many workers not to exercise their rights to form trade unions. All these elements are not conducive to a climate of trust between the government and social partners and represent clear breaches of freedom of association.
In summary, we are concerned that despite progress made in the last years on labour issues, we are now witnessing some steps backwards. We therefore urge the Government to take the necessary measures before the next International Labour Conference in June 2019, which should also focus on the situation in the country and on action taken.
In particular, we urge the Government to put in place a credible National Complaint Mechanism to deal with cases of forced labour. Meanwhile, cooperation with the ILO-led complaint mechanism has to continue.
We urge the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure that the labour law reform complies with International Labour Standards. We call on the government to implement measures -based on tripartite dialogue- to address issues that limit freedom of association in practice like the dismissal and discrimination of trade unionists and bureaucratic hurdles in the registration process.
We ask for reviewing the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law in line with the recommendation of the ILO direct contacts mission to ensure that the Law does not restrict or intimidate workers or employers while exercising their civil liberties. We also explicitly request the Government to ensure civil liberties in practice. This includes dropping the recent charges against trade unionists for leading demonstrations out of their district of origin in Mandalay.
Finally, we urge the government to address effectively the use of forced labour by the Tatmadaw army.
Chair, in light of the considerations and concerns raised above we can support the original decision point but are open to consider some of the suggested amendments.
[*] Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.