European Union External Action

ILO Governing Body 337th session- INS/9: Progress report on the follow-up to the resolution concerning remaining measures on the subject of Myanmar adopted by the Conference at its 102nd Session (2013)

Geneva, 06/11/2019 - 18:00, UNIQUE ID: 191114_17
Statements on behalf of the EU

ILO Governing Body 337th session, Geneva, 28 October – 7 November 2019

Thank you, Chairperson.

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia[*], Montenegro[*] and Albania[*] as well as the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.

The EU and its Member States are committed to the promotion, protection and respect of human rights and labour 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 also committed to the promotion of universal ratification, effective implementation and enforcement of the core labour standards.

We thank the ILO for its constant engagement in promoting labour rights in Myanmar. In this regard, we note the discernible progress the country has made on the Decent Work Agenda since the recent discussion during the GB in March this year, notably continuing the tripartite dialogue within the National Tripartite Dialogue Forum (NTDF), drawing up the new Action Plan for a National Complaints Mechanism relating to forced labour under the auspices of the Decent Work Country Programme, as well as adopting the new Child Rights Law in July 2019 and proposing to ratify the Minimum Age Convention C138.

We welcome the constructive 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 Myanmar 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 as well as with trade union and civil society.

However, while noting the progress, we would like to express our deep concern over the following issues:

  1. Cases of forced labour by the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) are still being reported. Moreover, after the expiry of the Supplementary Understanding in December 2018, the national complaints mechanism (NCM) is yet to be established, even though we take note of its approval by the President. Even once set up, it still remains vital that the complaint mechanism is practically accessible in particular for all victims of the conflict areas and that complaints are independently investigated and victims protected. We also regret to learn that the current NCM proposal does not include the ILO as a full partner. Given its mandate and previous work, ILO’s active participation as well as consultations with social partners in the setting-up of the NCM are essential for its credibility and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, until NCM is set up cooperation with the ILO-led complaint mechanism has to continue. Progress notwithstanding, we regret that in 2019 ILO has received 48 complaints, which have been assessed as being within the definition of forced labour, including 39 cases of underage recruitment.

  1. A key area of our attention 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. Following adoption of the new Child Rights Law, we urge the government to advance with the adoption of the Labour Organisation Law. While the amendment of the Settlements of Labour Disputes Law has been passed, we note that not all recommendations of the Direct Contacts Mission have been fully taken into account, notably relating to non-union collective bargaining in workplaces where trade unions exist. A genuine tripartite social dialogue should take place to address the outstanding issues of the labour law reform and the views of the social partners should be fully taken into account. 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 of and discrimination against 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 workers not to exercise their rights to form trade unions.
  2. The third area of great concern is child labour. Over 600.000 children among the 1.12 million children involved in child labour, are engaged in hazardous work. We are concerned that, despite various calls from the ILO and EU, the draft list determining the types of hazardous work prohibited for persons under 18 years of age has not been adopted so far. We urge the government of Myanmar to adopt the list and to strengthen the capacity and expand the reach of labour inspectors to detect hazardous child labour, particularly in the informal economy.

In addition to the above concerns, we also note with regret, that many UN organisations and mandate holders, development partners, as well as the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM), following-up on the work of Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar established by the Human Rights Council in March 2017, are facing travel restrictions or are even denied access to the country. This renders impossible any independent assessment of events and verification of information submitted by complainants, particularly in rural areas.

In summary, we have come to the conclusion that despite progress made in the last years on labour issues, the still remain unresolved. In particular, we urge the government to effectively address the use of forced labour by the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw).

Chair, in light of the considerations and concerns raised above we can support the original decision point.

Thank you, Chair.


[*] The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.