Wages in global supply chains, particularly in the garment industry, tend to be set well below the level of a living wage. In most major garment producing countries, garment worker wages are currently set through minimum wage fixing mechanisms. Minimum wage fixing is not able to address other factors that have a significant impact on wages, including working hours, the type of contract, non-wage benefits and productivity.
Myanmar has been an investment hub for manufacturing companies because of the low cost of labor compared to other areas in the world. The TGLS, recognized as a highly labor-intensive industry has been gaining ground in some Asian countries. Most of these countries have set of minimum wage rates through minimum wage fixing. Unfortunately, minimum wage fixing is not able to address other factors that impact on wages such as working hours, the type of contract and non-wage benefits and productivity.
Many workers are forced to supplement their wages by working hours that are way in excess of ILO standards.
Under existing conditions, no individual factory can realistically increase wages to the level that’s needed and still remain competitive.
Industry-wide collective bargaining is almost entirely absent from the garment industry.
For garment unions, low union density makes achieving higher minimum wages difficult, while non-compliance and lack of effective enforcement of minimum wages are constant problems.
In Myanmar, the IndustriALL affiliate, IWFM (an affiliate of CTUM) has lead two minimum wage campaigns – in 2015 and then in 2018. The campaigns resulted in increases nut it is clear that the current amount only covers around 75% of the basic needs of workers in the IndustriALL.
Since there are currently no processes for industry-wide bargaining in the garment sector in the target countries, trade unions need to be as well-equipped as possible to understand the potential, to argue for their introduction and to be able to use them in the best interests of their members and garment workers in general. This joint training program of FES and IndustriALL will make a significant contribution to that effort.
For more information, have a look at this article on the IndustriALL webpage.