Myanmar’s political climate is changing. As time ushers in hope, we are witnessing positive reforms and a shift towards democracy as outdated policies are being left behind - paving the way for more development opportunities. According to observations made by the Asia Development Bank in 2012, Myanmar is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia; it has expanded its GDP by nearly 8% a year, making it well on its way to becoming a middle-income nation. More than 67% of Myanmar’s population (60.62 million) is farmers and agricultural workers; of that group, most are below the poverty line. It is imperative this demographic be included in the country’s reforms during a period of such extensive political and economic changes. So as not to be left behind, the creation and maintenance of trade unions in which everyone can be included in the decision-making process and economic reform, as well as protected and educated on their rights, are essential. In August 2011, we established the AFFM based on the needs and living conditions of agricultural workers in Myanmar’s various states and divisions. After founding the AFFM, we applied for registration by the president under the labor law that was released on October 11th 2011. The AFFM was not granted permission to register based on Chapter 1 Article 1/b, a law that had recently been implemented. The government law, which was put into effect on February 29th 2012, states that in order to create a trade union one must register first at the basic level (township, division or state level), then at the federation level, and finally on a countrywide level. We are now restarting our process following the Chapter 1 Article 1/b. In a country where 67% of the populations work in agriculture, it is our civic responsibility to support this sector in order to increase production and country development. Implementing modern agricultural techniques and creating a strong union will promote a more prosperous and peaceful life in Myanmar. There are various ethnic groups in Myanmar, each with their own culture and language. Owing to this, assembling as one nation in the fight for democracy and development has proven difficult. To escape from poverty we must all unite and work together to strive for a peaceful future, albeit challenging. Creating a trade union for farmers and agricultural workers that educates and protects workers rights is an important step toward democracy.
Policy of AFFM
The Agriculture and Farmer Federation of Myanmar (AFFM) is a democratic trade union which is committed to assisting the men and women of Myanmar’s agriculture and farming sector as well as those working in food production. The AFFM is an independent and internationally recognized federation that works to:
- Maintain close relations with trade union movements throughout various countries worldwide
- Provide international trade unions with solidarity in an endeavor to strengthen, enhance the influence, and support activities in the defense and promotion of the interests and rights of agricultural workers and small scale farmers
- Participate in the restoration of democracy in Myanmar
- Initiate the process of national reconciliation in Myanmar
- Promote and attain the goals of its organization
I.GoalsThe AFFM is committed to improving the current disposition of agricultural workers and farmers within the country of Myanmar. The organization’s objectives include:
- Working to reach an agreement of social justice
- Acting in full responsibility to ensure the fundamental rights of workers in all capacities
- Establishing and executing collective bargaining and social dialogue
- Finding solutions for unemployment and underemployment
- Preparing and executing worker education and training especially through the IUF training guidelines
II.RecommendationAs a federation working towards inspiring social change within Myanmar, the AFFM focuses on core principle recommendations to improve the plight of agricultural workers in the country. Suggestions for improvement are founded on the AFFM’s belief in the necessity for universal respectable treatment of workers.
- The AFFM deems all forced labor and forced relocation as unacceptable and calls for the termination of such practices
- The organization is against all kinds of discrimination and works to end harassment of agricultural workers.
- The organization disapproves of forced child labor and is against the use of children in dangerous jobs.
III.Teamwork for implementation
The AFFM is a well structured independent broad-based organization that works in conjunction with several organizations. It has initiatives set up with other labor unions as well as several media associations and international organizations. The executive body, standing committee, and board make up the AFFM’s principal team. The federation encourages members to be well-seasoned trade unionist and to participate in the social dialogue of the organization. The AFFM implementation techniques include:
- Training, seminar, studies and publications (which will be conducted more often in the near future).
- The implementation of programs for Occupational Health Safety and Environment in the field, for farmers and those in the agricultural sector.