မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ စစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှု၏ ၂ နှစ်ပြည့်နေ့အပေါ် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များ၏ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်၊  
ဖေဖော်ဝါရီလ ၁ ရက်နေ့၊ ၂၀၂၃ ခုနှစ်

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ စစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှု၏ ၂ နှစ်ပြည့်နေ့အပေါ် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များ၏ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်၊
ဖေဖော်ဝါရီလ ၁ ရက်နေ့၊ ၂၀၂၃ ခုနှစ်

Global Unions Statement on the Second Anniversary of the Military Coup in Myanmar

Council of Global Unions (CGU)

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ စစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှု၏ ၂ နှစ်ပြည့်နေ့တွင် ကမ္ဘာတဝှမ်းရှိ အလုပ်သမား သန်း ၂၀၀ ကို ကိုယ်စားပြုသော ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များမှ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ ဒီမိုကရေစီ ပြန်လည်ထွန်းကားရေးအတွက် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ ကြိုးပမ်း မှုများ အသစ်တဖန်ပြုလုပ်ကြပါရန် တောင်းဆိုအပ်ပါသည်။ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ (NUG) ကို မြန်မာပြည်သူ လူထု၏ တရားဝင်ကိုယ်စားပြုသူအဖြစ် သံတမန်နည်းအရ တရားဝင်အသိအမှတ်ပြုရေးနှင့် နိုင်ငံရေးအကျဥ်းသားများကို လွှတ်ပေးရေးအတွက် တောင်းဆိုကြရန် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂများအဖွဲ့ချုပ် (CTUM) မှ တောင်းဆိုသော ကမ္ဘာလုံး ဆိုင်ရာ လှုပ်ရှားမှုနေ့ကို ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များမှ အားပေးထောက်ခံပါသည်။

ဆယ်စုနှစ်များစွာဖြင့် စစ်အုပ်ချုပ်ရေးစနစ်အပြီး ဦးတည်နေသည့် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ ဒီမိုကရေစီလမ်းကြောင်းကို အနှောင့် အယှက်ပေးကာ ၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ ဖေဖော်ဝါရီလ ၁ ရက်နေ့တွင် မြန်မာစစ်တပ်မှ ရွေးကောက်တင်မြှောက်ခံထားရသော နိုင်ငံတော်၏အစိုးရသစ်ကို ဖယ်ရှားခဲ့ပါသည်။ စစ်တပ်မှ နိုင်ငံတော်စီမံအုပ်ချုပ်ရေးကောင်စီ (SAC) ဟု ခေါ်သွင်သော အဖွဲ့တခု အောက်တွင် တရားမဝင်အစိုးရတရပ်ကို ဖွဲ့စည်းခဲ့ပါသည်။ ဒီမိုကရေစီနည်းလမ်းအရ ရွေးကောက်တင်မြှောက် ခံထားရသူ နိုင်ငံရေးသမားမှ NUG ဟု ခေါ်သွင်သော အစိုးရတရပ်ကို ဖွဲ့စည်းခဲ့ပါသည်။

စစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှုကို အာဏာဖီဆန်သော လှုပ်ရှားမှုပြုလုပ်ကြသူ မြန်မာပြည်သူများက ကျယ်ကျယ်ပြန့်ပြန့် ခုခံခဲ့ကြ ပါသည်။ စစ်အစိုးရမှ ရက်ရက်စက်စက် အစုလိုက်အပြုံလိုက် ဖမ်းဆီး သတ်ဖြတ်မှုများဖြင့် တုံ့ပြန်ခဲ့ပါသည်။ ယနေ့ အချိန် ထိ – သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ဝင်များအပါအဝင် – လူပေါင်း ၁၇၄၈၁ ဦး ဖမ်းဆီးခံခဲ့ရပြီး ၁၃၆၈၀ ဦးမှာ ဆက်လက် ထိန်းသိမ်းခံထားရဆဲ ဖြစ်ပါသည်။ ၂၈၉၂ ဦးမှာ စစ်အစိုးရ၏ သတ်ဖြတ်ခြင်းကို ခံခဲ့ရပါသည်။ အကြမ်းမဖက် ဆန္ဒထုတ်ဖော်မှုအပေါ် ရက်ရက် စက်စက်ဖိနှိပ်မှုက လက်နက်ကိုင်အင်အားစုများကို ဖြစ်ပေါ်လာစေပြီး ယခုအခါ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံမှာ ပြည်တွင်းစစ် ဖြစ်ပွားနေ သည့် အခြေအနေ ဖြစ်ပါသည်။

စစ်အစိုးရက မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင်းရှိ သမဂ္ဂအများစုကို ပိတ်ပင်ထားပါသည်။ သမဂ္ဂလှုပ်ရှားသူ တော်တော်များများ ထိန်းသိမ်း ခံထားရပြီး တချို့သူတွေ အသတ်ခံရတာ သို့မဟုတ် ပုန်းအောင်းနေကြရတာမျိုး ရှိနေပါသည်။ လွတ်လပ်စွာအသင်းအပင်း ဖွဲ့စည်းခွင့် အခွင့်အရေးကို ကျင့်သုံးရန် မဖြစ်နိုင်ပါ။

စစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှု နှစ်ပတ်လည်နေ့မှာ ကမ္ဘာတဝှမ်းက သမဂ္ဂများအနေဖြင့် မြန်မာသံရုံးနှင့် စစ်တပ်ကို ထောက်ခံနေတဲ့ နိုင်ငံများ၏ သံရုံးများရှေ့မှာ သပိတ်များ သို့မဟုတ် ဆန္ဒပြပွဲများ ပြုလုပ်ပြီး အောက်ဖော်ပြပါ တောင်းဆိုချက်များဖြင့် တောင်းဆိုကြပါရန် CTUM မှ တောင်းဆိုပါသည် –

၁။ မြန်မာသူရဲကောင်းများကို ဂုဏ်ပြုပါသည်

၂။ နိုင်ငံရေးအကျဥ်းသားများကို လွှတ်ပေးပါ

၃။ ပြည်သူတို့၏ ဒီမိုကရေစီကို ထောက်ခံအားပေးပါ

၄။ တရားဝင်အစိုးရကို ပြန်လည်ခန့်အပ်ပါ

မြန်မာသမဂ္ဂများ၏ အဓိကတောင်းဆိုမှုသည် NUG ကို သံတမန်နည်းအရ တရားဝင် အသိအမှတ်ပြုရန်ဖြစ်ပါသည်။ စစ်အစိုးရသည် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ တရားဝင်အစိုးရပမာ သံတမန်နည်းအရ အသိအမှတ်ပြုမှုကို ရရှိအောင်ကြိုးပမ်းခြင်းဖြင့် ၎င်းတို့၏ ထိန်းချုပ်မှုကို ပုံမှန်ဖြစ်အောင် ကြိုးပမ်းနေပါသည်။ မြန်မာပြည်သူလူထု၏ တရားဝင် ဒီမိုကရေစီနည်းကျ ရွေး ကောက်တင်မြှောက်ခံထားရသော ကိုယ်စားလှယ်ဖြစ်လင့်ကစား NUG ကို တရားဝင် သံတမန်နည်းအရ အသိအမှတ် ပြုခြင်းမျိုး အလုံးစုံတော့ မဟုတ်ပါ။

၂၀၂၂ ခုနှစ်တွင် ကမ္ဘာ့ကုလသမဂ္ဂ အထွေထွေညီလာခံမှ အသိအမှတ်ပြုခံရမှုအတွက် စစ်အစိုးရ၏ ကမ်းလှမ်းချက်ကို ငြင်း ပယ်ခဲ့ပြီး စစ်အာဏာမသိမ်းခင်ကတည်းက နေရာရထားပြီးသား NUG ၏ ကိုယ်စားလှယ်ကိုပဲ ၎င်း၏နေရာကို ထားရှိ ခဲ့ပါသည်။ ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ အလုပ်သမားလှုပ်ရှားမှုက ၂၀၂၁ နှင့် ၂၀၂၂ ခုနှစ် ILO ၏ အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာ အလုပ်သမား များ ညီလာခံတွင် စစ်အစိုးရကို ငြင်းပယ်နိုင်စေခဲ့ပါသည်။

သို့သော်လည်း ကမ္ဘာ့ကုလသမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့အစည်းများနှင့် အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာအဖွဲ့အစည်းများတွင် အလုံးစုံ ရပ်တည်ချက် မရှိပါ။ ထိပ်သီးအစည်းအဝေးများမှာ SAC ရဲ့ ပါဝင်မှုကို အာဆီယံနိုင်ငံများမှ ကန့်သတ်ခဲ့သော်လည်း ဒေသတွင်းက သံရုံး များကို စစ်အစိုးရမှ ထိန်းချုပ်ထားကာ အာဆီယံအစိုးရများမှလည်း တခြားသော အစည်းအဝေးနှင့် ဖိုရမ်များမှာ စစ်အုပ်စု နှင့် ဆက်ဆံနေပါသည်။

SAC ဟာ ရုရှားနှင့်တရုတ်နိုင်ငံများမှ အားကောင်းသော အထောက်အပံ့များ ရရှိပြီး အိန္ဒိယနှင့်ထိုင်းနိုင်ငံတို့မှ အသိအမှတ် ပြုမှုတချို့ ရရှိပါသည်။ ၂၀၂၁ တွင် ဥရောပပါလီမန်မှ NUG ကို မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ တရားဝင်ကိုယ်စားလှယ်အဖြစ် အသိအမှတ် ပြုရေး ဆုံးဖြတ်ချက်တရပ် အတည်ပြုချမှတ်ခဲ့ပြီး ဥရောပနိုင်ငံတော်တော်များများတွင် NUG မှ သံတမန်ဆက်ဆံရေး တည်ရှိသော်လည်း မည်သည့် NUG ကိုယ်စားလှယ်မှ သံတမန်ရေးရာအရ ခန့်အပ်ခံရမှု မရှိပါ။

၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်တွင် နိုင်ငံစုံကုမ္ပဏီများအနေဖြင့် လျော်ကန်သည့်ဝီရိယစိုက်ထုတ်မှုကို စောင့်ကြည့်ကာ စီးပွားရေးနှင့် လူ့အခွင့် အရေးဆိုင်ရာ ကုလသမဂ္ဂ လမ်းညွှန်ချက်များ၊ နိုင်ငံစုံစီးပွားရေးလုပ်ငန်းများအတွက် OECD လမ်း ညွှန်ချက်များနှင့်အညီ မြန်မာစစ်တပ်နှင့် တိုက်ရိုက်လုပ်ငန်းဖြစ်စေ၊ ဆက်စပ်လုပ်ငန်းများနှင့် ဖြစ်စေ ပတ်သက် မှုများကို ဖြတ်တောက်ရန် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များမှ တောင်းဆိုခဲ့ပါသည်။ လျော်ကန်သည့်ဝီရိယစိုက်ထုတ်မှု ကျင့်သုံးနိုင်ခြင်းမရှိသည့် အချိန်တွင် ရင်းနှီးမြှုပ်နှံမှု မပြုလုပ်ခြင်းကို စီးပွားရေးအရရွေးချယ်မှုအဖြစ် ရှိသင့်ပါသည်။ ကုမ္ပဏီတချို့က မြန်မာနိုင်ငံမှာ စီးပွားရေးလုပ်ငန်းလည်ပတ်နေတာကို ရပ်တန့်လိုက်သော်လည်း စစ်တပ်သည် လက်နက်များထုတ်လုပ်ရန်အတွက် အမေ ရိကန်၊ ဥရောပနှင့် အာရှနိုင်ငံရှိ ကုမ္ပဏီများမှ ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ ထောက်ပံ့ရေးကွင်းဆက်ကို လက်လှမ်းမီနိုင်ခဲ့ပါသည်။

ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ချုပ်များအနေဖြင့် NUG ကို အသိအမှတ်ပြုရေး၊ စစ်အစိုးရကို တိုက်ရိုက် သို့မဟုတ် သွယ်ဝိုက် သည့်နည်းဖြင့် အကျိုးဖြစ်ထွန်းစေမှုအားလုံးကို ဖြတ်တောက်ရန်အတွက် စစ်တပ်နှင့်အလုပ်လုပ်နေကြသော နိုင်ငံတကာ ကုမ္ပဏီများကို ဖိအားပေးရေး ၎င်းတို့၏ နိုင်ငံအလိုက် အစိုးရများကို တောင်းဆိုပေးပါရန် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ သမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့ ချုပ်များမှ ၎င်းတို့၏ အဖွဲ့ဝင်သမဂ္ဂများကို မေတ္တာရပ်ခံတောင်းဆိုပါသည်။

ဒီစစ်အာဏာသိမ်းမှု ၂ နှစ်ပြည့်နေ့တွင် ကမ္ဘာလုံးဆိုင်ရာ အလုပ်သမားလှုပ်ရှားမှုသည် မြန်မာပြည်သူလူထု တရပ်လုံးနှင့် သွေးစည်းညီညွတ်စွာဖြင့် ပြတ်သားစွာ ရပ်တည်နေပါသည်။ ဒီမိုကရေစီ ပြန်လည်မရမချင်း ကျွန်ုပ်တို့ အနားယူ လိမ့်မည် မဟုတ်ပါ။

RSPO “mixed”? may contain forced labour, environmental destruction (we don’t know)

RSPO “mixed”? may contain forced labour, environmental destruction (we don’t know)

Anyone trying to buy products that are environmentally and socially sustainable and not harmful to human rights or the environment faces an immense challenge. Not only are more and more environmental and human rights groups turning certification labelling into a profitable business (more business than protection), their claims seem less and less credible. Deforestation and biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate, while child labour and forced labour continues to be widespread, with no sign of declining. What is declining is people’s confidence in large multinational corporations with extensive global supply chains being able to live up to their sustainability claims.

Underpinning the gap between these claims and the reality is the issue of traceability. Companies must know exactly where each and every ingredient came from, the impact of how it was grown, raised, caught and/or produced, how it travelled through the supply chain and under what environmental and social conditions, to end up in the final product. Only through traceability can they know. And they don’t know. One reason is that the responsibility of monitoring and reporting is outsourced to third-party certification agencies, foundations and organizations, including NGOs, who are effectively paid to police themselves.

Block chain is presented as the technological answer. But block chain only ensures no one can tamper with information inputted along the way. So if the information inputted (by humans) is unreliable, then block chain preserves the integrity of the lie. It cannot be tampered with.

Another reason traceability is problematic is that there are grey areas where it is unclear where the ingredient or produce came from. In fisheries this includes distant water fishing (DWF) fleets mixing the catch at sea and deliberately mislabeling the point of origin. Or seafood companies semi-processing in informal peeling sheds before bringing the product into their factories. In agriculture, sugar, tobacco, and palm oil are not sourced from identifiable farms or fields, but are presented by buyers and “middle-men” as a single crop. Or under coffee and cacao certification the certification bodies allow the misuse of farmers’ names and farm locations to claim that it meets all the requirements. And farmers still don’t get the promised premium.

This is clearly demonstrated by the “mixed” trademark of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The “mixed” certification label means that RSPO certified the palm oil used in the product under its Mass Balance supply chain approach. Mass Balance means that palm oil made from palm kernel harvested in plantations certified as free from deforestation, environmental destruction, and human rights abuses is mixed with palm kernel from plantations not certified as free from deforestation, environmental destruction, and human rights. So “on balance” RSPO and its corporate customers hope it turns out okay in terms of the environment and human rights.

We could liken it to the warning of possible allergens in packaged food labelling: “this product may contain traces of nuts”. This usually means food products containing nuts were manufactured on the same line, so traces may have ended up in the current food product. So what this really means is: we don’t know, there could be traces of nuts, so be careful. It’s precautionary. What the RSPO “mixed” labeling means is: we don’t know, and we won’t find out. It’s irresponsible.

The distinction between palm oil and palm kernel is significant. Most people (as informed consumers) believe that sustainable palm oil and 100% traceability concerns the palm oil plantations themselves. This is logical since deforestation, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions from destruction of forests and peatland, forced labour, child labour, excessive pesticide use, land grabbing and displacement of indigenous peoples all occur on or around plantations. But within the industry palm oil is the product of palm oil refineries and traceability refers only to the ability to track palm oil shipments to the refinery itself. It is not traceable to the plantations.This allows a crucial grey area of flexibility. Companies can include palm kernel within the cope of sustainability if they have good examples to promote, and exclude it when forests are burning or human rights are violated. Like “mixed”, the interchangeable use of palm oil and palm kernel allows a very flexible use of traceability, which in turns allows deniability.

The “mixed” RSPO label means that you are consuming a product that was made with some sustainable palm oil, and some unsustainable palm oil. There might be some deforestation and and rights abuse mixed in there, RSPO doesn’t know. But why doesn’t RSPO know? The reason is that there is still no system for monitoring and control to ensure compliance. This is partly because the entire system of regulation, monitoring and enforcement is privatized and financed by the companies using the RSPO certification labels.

As long as private industry certification organizations can monopolize a commodity or industry, they can limit the choices people make. In the case of the Maldives, union members of BKMU fish tuna sustainably with single pole lines with no by-catch, no harm to other species and no nets causing damage to the environment. But the distant water fishing (DWF) fleets backed by their own governments and the certification bodies can denounce tuna caught sustainably in the Maldives by unionized fishers, force it off the supermarket shelves in Europe, and replace it with marine species caught through destructive drift net fishing. There is no discussion of traceability when it comes to massive DWF trawlers killing a multitude of other marine species, destroying coral reefs and ocean habitats, and using abusive labour practices, including forced labour. It still ends up in supermarkets as sustainable, because the certification bodies, their “alliances” and corporate-backed NGOs say it is.

The only way for people to be certain that the products they consume aren’t linked to environmental destruction or human rights violations (and therefore really have a choice) is to ensure that the environment and human rights are protected. Palm oil companies and their buyers must stop lobbying against stricter environmental, labour and human rights legislation. They must stop undermining the efforts to protect the rights of rural communities and indigenous peoples – especially with regard to land rights. Palm oil companies and their buyers must stop the aggressive repression of trade union rights and guarantee all workers – especially migrant workers – have full and unconditional access to the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Rural communities, indigenous peoples, marginal farmers and workers must be self-organized, collectively represented, and be able to protect their rights and interests. Only then can we ensure the protection of the environment and human rights that people want and expect from the products they consume. There are no mixed messages in that.

For social protection to be effective it must empower women, advance workers’ rights and redistribute wealth

For social protection to be effective it must empower women, advance workers’ rights and redistribute wealth

There is no doubt that social protection can contribute to creating an enabling environment in which workers can improve their livelihoods and ensure stable incomes and safe work. This is especially important for workers engaged in small-scale fisheries and agriculture, and for marginal farmers, informal sector workers and home-based workers. The greater the physical, social and economic vulnerability, the greater the need for social protection. Yet at the same time, the greater the physical, social and economic vulnerability, the less access these workers have to social protection. This inverse correlation between vulnerability and access to social protection is prevalent in all sectors and is especially evident among informal sector workers and migrant workers.

Calling for more social protection is not a solution in and of itself. Taking the example of the fisheries sector, social protection can be effective in ensuring access to rights and improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of fishers, farmers and fisheries workers. But its effectiveness depends on rights, process and resource allocation.

The direct involvement of women workers in decision-making is essential for social protection to be effective in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. The involvement of women cannot be symbolic or passive (women as targets of social protection instruments). It is not based on the inclusion of gender perspectives and gender-based approaches alone, but the inclusion of women themselves. Women workers must be able to collectively represent themselves in the workplaces, farms and communities – and at all levels of decision-making, planning and implementation – for social protection to be effective and truly equitable.

Women will ensure that social protection is meaningful and effective through their direct, collective representation in decision-making in the allocation and distribution of public resources; and continuous assessment and monitoring to ensure transparency, fairness and reach. If decision-making is dominated by men, then not only is there a greater likelihood that social protection will be ineffective and limited in its scope and reach, there is also a greater likelihood of discrimination, abuse and corruption. The erosion of existing social protection programs due to corruption remains a serious challenge in the region.

Adding more resources for social protection to broken, unaccountable and opaque institutions simply sets us up for failure. While new technologies could play an important role, fundamental institutional reforms are needed. The most important of which is the direct, collective participation of women workers in decision-making. In India, the most effective use of social protection under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) occurs where independent, democratic unions led by women are involved in organizing, policy intervention and decision-making. These unions ensure that women secure their rights under NREGA, while also engaging with local authorities to ensure the appropriate, fair and effective use of NREGA resources.

The direct, collective involvement and representation of women in decision-making assumes that women can exercise the  right to freedom of association guaranteed under ILO Convention No 87. (Also important are ILO Convention Nos 11, 141 and 177 on the right of agricultural workers to organize; rural workers’ organizations; and home-based workers). Women can combine together in an organization of their own choosing, represent their collective interests and engage in collective bargaining and decision-making. Any restrictions on freedom of association or barriers that impede women’s access to these enabling rights prevents their involvement, which in turn undermines the effectiveness of social protection policies and programs.

Restrictions on or impediments to the ability of women workers, farmers and fishers to organize themselves also exacerbate the economic and social vulnerability of women. This leads to increased exploitation and abuse – including trafficking and forced labour – which renders social protection both inadequate and meaningless.

In terms of the allocation of resources, social protection should not indirectly subsidize the large-scale commercial fisheries industry. The poverty wages of fisheries workers on vessels and in factories perpetuates poverty in their communities – communities often located in and around commercial fisheries operations. On September 3, 2022, the 4th National Fishworkers Congress in the Philippines established the link between building fisheries workers’ power and a sustainable fishing industry. In this context the Fishworkers Congress identified poverty, debt and lack of access to human rights (food and nutrition, housing, education and health care) as the direct consequence of poverty wages in the private commercial fisheries sector. Orchestrated efforts by employers to prevent union organizing, and repeated violations of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining guaranteed under ILO Conventions Nos 87 and 98, prevent fisheries workers from collectively bargaining to secure better wages and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Collective bargaining in the private commercial fisheries sector to achieve better wages and livelihoods must remain a priority and government financed social protection should not inadvertently subsidize an industry that suppresses rights and perpetuates poverty wages.

Serious and widespread violations of workers’ health and safety rights in the fisheries sector contravene ILO Convention No 155, which is now a fundamental convention. Several members of the fishing community participating in the 4th National Fishworkers Congress in the Philippines described the serious injuries suffered by fishers in the private commercial fishing sector due to unsafe work practices. Unsafe work causes greater injury, long-term illness and inability to work, which in turn increases the burden on social protection programs.

In the Maldives, for example, our affiliate BKMU has the capacity to negotiate catch prices that will increase the incomes and livelihoods of fishers and their families and communities, including migrant workers. However, the new Industrial Relations Bill currently before the parliament threatens to undermine BKMU’s ability to organize and collectively bargain. In the absence of collective bargaining rights, buying companies maintain a monopsony and can manipulate catch prices and reduce the incomes of BKMU members. This results in greater poverty and debt in the communities dependent on these incomes. Turning to social protection is not the answer. The answer in the commercial fisheries sector lies in the exercise of collective bargaining rights to redistribute profit, not the redirection of public resources through social protection.

Social protection is needed most in artisanal fisheries, small-scale extensive aquaculture, the informal sector and home-based work, as well as coastal and inland fishing communities experiencing climate vulnerability. It is a vital part of the strategies needed to urgently address child labour in artisanal fisheries and aquaculture.

The vulnerability of coastal fishing communities to climate change, biodiversity loss and declining aquatic species is a serious concern throughout the region. This has a significant impact on livelihoods and incomes as well as local food security. The effectiveness of social protection depends on a more coherent and comprehensive policy approach that integrates environmental protection and rights. This includes the right of fisherfolk to collective representation in decision-making and the right to food and nutrition. It also needs action by governments to stop industrial pollution killing their livelihoods.

The question of resources also relates to the prevalence of government subsidies for large-scale commercial fishing, especially distant water fishing (DWF). DWF has a significant impact on scarce aquatic resources and threatens to reduce the availability of ocean caught fisheries. This in turn threatens the livelihoods and food security of fishing communities. If left unaddressed, government subsidies for large-scale commercial fishing and DWF fleets will create greater poverty, debt and food insecurity in coastal fishing communities and especially among traditional and indigenous fisherfolk. This then creates the (avoidable) need for more social protection. Yet the effectiveness of this social protection will be continuously undermined as long as the extractive subsidies for the commercial fishing industry continues.

It is in this sense that social protection to secure an equitable “blue transformation” in the fisheries sector requires a significant reallocation of public resources and recognition of workers’ rights. We not only need to increase government funded social protection, but to reduce subsidies for economic activities detrimental to the environment, livelihoods and incomes, and food security. In addition to this, social protection must be financed through a greater allocation of public resources, which places priority on reduced support for extractive or destructive industries, and increased corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy.

Ultimately social protection must redistribute wealth if any transformation is to be truly equitable and sustainable.

When companies claim “we’re a family” workers are exposed to more abuse and rights violations

In 2011 when the IUF was engaged in discussions with the global management of a leading food and personal care goods company over abusive precarious employment arrangements at a tea factory in India, the factory manager called all the workers together in a “town hall” meeting (a meeting on the factory floor). He started by criticizing the union for raising the issue with global management through the IUF, and added “fuck the IUF!” for good measure. He went on to say that the dispute with the union is a “family matter” describing it as “a fight between husband and wife”. He then asked rhetorically: “And what happens when there’s a fight between husband and wife?” To which a worker shouted out, “The relatives come running!” Everyone laughed. The factory manager let loose with more swearing and verbal abuse, demanding he be shown respect. When an interpreter translated the audio recording she was shocked by the swearing that followed. (It can’t be reprinted here.) But our members were not surprised at all.

In the corporate world the use of “we’re a family” supposedly refers to the care that the company has for its employees, mutual loyalty and commitment. But in reality it establishes the factory manager or general manager as the “father” and workers as “the children.” This paternalism allows a dangerous assertion of absolute power, which then opens the door to all sorts of disciplinary action and abuse, including sexual harassment. As our members often comment: “What kind of family do they come from?”

Another question that comes up time and again when management declares “we’re a family” is: who exactly is included in the family? The widespread abuse of precarious employment arrangements results in a large proportion of workers engaged on a casual or fixed-term basis with lower wages, fewer benefits and greater insecurity. They are decidedly not in the family. Nor are workers in the outsourced and third-party operations who make a tremendous contribution to business growth and profits, but do not benefit from it.

Back in 2011 none of our members working in any transnational company in the region were surprised by the “we’re a family” rhetoric (or the abuse that comes with it). A decade later the claim by management that “we’re a family” remains widespread and a younger generation of management seems to actually believe it.

Writing in The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker, warns of the dangers of this and how “we’re a family” translates in the workplace:

When I hear something like We’re like family here, I silently complete the analogy: We’ll foist obligations upon you, expect your unconditional devotion, disrespect your boundaries, and be bitter if you prioritize something above us.

Pinsker argues that from a business point of view this is counter-productive:

When a business is presented as a family, its workers may feel pressure to pledge an unreasonable degree of loyalty to their employer, putting up with long hours, mistreatment, and the erosion of work-life boundaries, all in the spirit of harmony and a shared purpose. [See Joe Pinsker, “The Dark Side of Saying Work Is ‘Like a Family'”, The Atlantic, February 17, 2022.]

Our members across the region share a common experience of this. Management frequently mismanages staffing and scheduling and turns to our members to asked them to undertake unplanned overtime, often unpaid. The request (often communicated via WhatsApp or Messenger with the requisite emojis to show it’s all very friendly) is presented as voluntary but is loaded with pressure. Saying no is disloyal and lets everyone down, there will be consequences in any performance review, and you should do it because we’re family.

Saying no to excessive and irregular working hours not only shows a lack of loyalty and obligation fitting for a family, it is also reported upwards to higher management as a lack of “flexibility” among workers. With local management failing to hire enough workers and mismanaging schedules and planning, workers are then asked 40 minutes before the end of their shift to do an extra two hours. If they say no (because their real family is expecting them to be home), they are deemed disloyal and higher management is told that union members are not flexible enough.

This happened most recently in the Malaysian factory of a leading global dairy company whose corporate management used this to justify the hiring of migrant workers recruited from overseas. Migrant workers on short-term contracts would be more “flexible”. The subsequent raid by the immigration police and detention of the migrant workers recruited and employed illegally demonstrated that flexibility actually meant vulnerability (no power to say, No!) And at no point were they considered family.

One of the most common issues raised by fast food and restaurant workers in the region is the prevalence of “loyalty work”. Loyalty work is the unpaid work that restaurant workers are obliged to undertake at the end of each shift. It can range from 15 minutes to two hours. It is not compulsory but is obligatory – in the sense of family obligation. Working without pay at the end of a shift expresses loyalty to the company and co-workers and is reinforced by the same family rhetoric.

As our members in food services point out, this “loyalty” is not mutual. It only goes one way. Workers are expected to work without pay but the company can still reassign, transfer or fire them without hesitation. In the IUF Asia/Pacific Food Services Workers Meeting held on June 26, 2022, restaurant and fast food workers from 13 countries all recounted the same experiences and agreed unanimously that “loyalty work” is simply wage theft.

Ironically, on the few occasions that digital platform food delivery riders might encounter a real human being representing management, they also hear “we’re a family”. This is in a situation where companies like Food Panda are fighting an all out battle to prevent legislation that would establish their responsibility as employers.

In October 2021, Joshua A. Luna wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review with the illuminating title: “The Toxic Effects of Branding Your Workplace a ‘Family'”. Luna points out that calling the company a family not only exposes employees to abuse, but also extends loyalty to covering up any wrongdoing:

Numerous examples and research show that overly loyal people are more likely to participate in unethical acts to keep their jobs and are also more likely to be exploited by their employer. These could manifest as being asked to work unreasonable hours or on projects or assignments unrelated to your role, or keeping things under wraps because it is in the company’s (read: family) best interest. We’re all in this together, so you have to play your part, right?

What corporate management does not seem to understand is that “family loyalty” can be applied by local management to cover up all sorts of mismanagement, non-compliance and corruption. In our recent experience, a leading global company with a substantial water business in Indonesia failed completely in its corporate governance and oversight to identify massive and widespread corruption. There can be no doubt that the notion of being “family” played a crucial role in preventing any whistle-blowing. In fact, the whistle-blowers were terminated for their breach of the cardinal rule of loyalty.

The consequences of this can be very dangerous. Family loyalty in the workplace or company is one of the most common forms of pressure that workers face to under-report or misreport unsafe work, industrial accidents and injuries. Again it’s the rhetoric of “we’re in this together” and that covering up injuries and accidents is in the family’s best interests. Far from being rhetoric, this is literally putting workers’ lives at risk.

As Justin Pot from the firm Zapier advised companies in a blog post on June 4, 2021:

Your company isn’t a family, and I think pretending otherwise is unhealthy and unproductive.

Under the sub-heading, “Families don’t fire people”, Pot observes:

I bet you’ve disappointed your mother countless times—I know I’ve disappointed mine. Mom never fired me for poor performance, though, and she also didn’t lay me off when quarterly projections didn’t hit the target metrics. Family loyalty isn’t based on performance because that would be absurd.

But companies are different. They don’t employ people out of love or loyalty because companies, by definition, can’t feel those things. Your company employs you because what you do is valuable – at least, valuable enough to justify your salary.

Luna’s article in the Harvard Business Review also warns that in the “family” approach, employers being the “parent” and employees “the children” can have serious consequences in terms of disempowerment:

These dynamics can also leave employees feeling unempowered (the parents usually decide, and the children follow orders) to stand up for themselves and take on work that falls outside of their comfort zone. This allows personalities and pre-determined dynamics to take precedent over what is expected to do their job well.

Like all forms of paternalism the whole notion of “we’re a family” in corporate approaches is rooted in the question of power. It not only establishes the employer or management as parents and workers as children, but declares everyone else to be outside the family. This is one of the reasons why the notion of the company as a family persists today despite its repeated failure and obvious risks. It allows management to resist unions and to encourage workers to refuse to join unions on the basis that: We’re a family and we don’t need these outsiders!

In this regard there is a strong North American influence in management ideology and practice in the Asia-Pacific region today. Unions are seen as hostile third parties that interfere in the relationship between management and employees. In fact, vast financial resources are directed to consultants and law firms whose sole task is described as “union avoidance”. When a major global food company advertised for HR managers in North America it explicitly required “experience in union avoidance”.

The damage to workers and their ability to exercise their internationally recognized human rights is clear. Article 23 (4) of The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to form or join a union to protect their interests. The ILO established this as a fundamental right. There is no qualifier or footnote stating, “except if the employment relationship is like a family!” Yet calling the company or workplace a “family” somehow justifies the negation of those rights.

This also damages companies. Few managers actually understand industrial relations anymore and even fewer practice it. This rapidly disappearing group of experienced industrial relations managers know that good industrial relations are vital to any successful business. And in an era that demands greater sustainability, it is even more important than ever.

Good industrial relations ensure workers have collective representation through their unions and guarantees they can access their rights. It is good industrial relations based on a healthy mutual respect that resolves disputes and strikes and boosts morale and productivity. Workers empowered by their unions can speak out against gender-based violence, sexual harassment and corruption. In this respect higher levels of management will hear what they should (and need) to hear regarding the realities in the workplace. It strengthens corporate governance. Calling the workplace a family merely reinforces the unchecked power of local management and undermines corporate governance. It’s not a family, it’s business.

The factory where we had the dispute in 2011 continued to be mismanaged and eventually closed. The company ignored the collective bargaining rights of our members, violated the international labour conventions they claim to adhere to, and forcibly terminated all of the workers without negotiations. So much for family.

 

 

 

 

UN အတွက် ရွေးချယ်ဖို့ အချိန်တန်ပြီ၊ တရားမဝင် စစ်အစိုးရ သို့မဟုတ် ဒီမိုကရေစီ နည်းလမ်းကျသော အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ? တခြားရွေးချယ်စရာ မရှိပါ၊ တရားမျှတမှုသည်သာ။ NUG ကို အခုပဲ အသိအမှတ်ပြုပါ!

UN အတွက် ရွေးချယ်ဖို့ အချိန်တန်ပြီ၊ တရားမဝင် စစ်အစိုးရ သို့မဟုတ် ဒီမိုကရေစီ နည်းလမ်းကျသော အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ? တခြားရွေးချယ်စရာ မရှိပါ၊ တရားမျှတမှုသည်သာ။ NUG ကို အခုပဲ အသိအမှတ်ပြုပါ!

UN အတွက် ရွေးချယ်ဖို့ အချိန်တန်ပြီ၊ တရားမဝင် စစ်အစိုးရ သို့မဟုတ် ဒီမိုကရေစီ နည်းလမ်းကျသော အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ? တခြားရွေးချယ်စရာ မရှိပါ၊ တရားမျှတမှုသည်သာ။ NUG ကို အခုပဲ အသိအမှတ်ပြုပါ!

PDF Myanmar-Myanmar democracy campaign

The UN must choose. The illegitimate military junta or the democratic National Unity Government? There is no choice. Only justice. Recognize NUG now!

The UN must choose. The illegitimate military junta or the democratic National Unity Government? There is no choice. Only justice. Recognize NUG now!

The United Nations (UN) designated September 15 as the International Day of Democracy. On this day we call for the restoration of democracy and democratic rights in Myanmar.

One year ago there was a campaign on September 15, 2021, calling on the UN to recognize the democratic National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate government of the people of Myanmar and to reject the illegal, bloody military State Administration Council (SAC). This call came just before an important decision of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on whether to recognize NUG or the SAC.

Despite the tremendous support of several governments around the world, the UN General Assembly failed to make a clear choice. In response, on October 26, 2021, the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Committee expressed concern that 75th Session of the UN General Assembly had not taken a clear decision on the rejection of the military State Administration Council (SAC) and recognition of the democratic NUG, warning that:

further delay in the rejection of the SAC and recognition of the NUG will embolden the military regime and increase its military attacks on civilian populations.

Tragically this is exactly what happened. An emboldened SAC military junta escalated its brutal war on the people, with military attacks on villages and aerial bombings. Thousands more human rights defenders and trade unionists were arrested, hundreds more were sentenced to prison terms. And on July 26, 2022, the SAC military junta executed four political prisoners.

One year later, on September 15, 2022, the international community again mobilizes to call on the UN General Assembly to recognize NUG and reject SAC.

Only total political rejection of the SAC as an illegitimate, criminal military regime and full support for NUG can help end this reign of terror and provide much needed support for the courageous struggle of all the peoples of Myanmar to restore democracy.

What choice is there now for the UN? The SAC military junta or the democratic NUG? There is no choice. Only justice.

SIGN THE PETITION Myanmar for U Kyaw Moe Tun & U Kyaw Moe Tun for Myanmar

Recognize NUG now!

Download the Myanmar democracy campaign poster PDF in English