Lao workers’ rights not upheld, labour official says

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos needs to increase understanding about the protection of the rights and interests of the country’s workers, a workshop for the sector heard on Tuesday.

Many workers are not sufficiently protected and are employed in unsafe workplaces with unregulated sanitation and hazardous conditions because authorities fail to uphold their rights and benefits under the Law on Labour.

Workers often do not understand their rights or role in society, but simply keep working to maintain a meagre existence.

Speaking at the workshop, Director General of the Labour Management Department under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Phongsaysack Inthalath, said the government wanted more workers to make use of legal services concerning their rights but most were unable to access such services.

He said the workshop played an important role in supporting low income workers because many of these workers still do not enjoy sufficient protection under the law.

He also called on all labour authorities to be effective role models and strengthen the discipline of members working in government agencies, to prevent damaging behaviour such as corruption, bribery, violations of the law, laziness in the workplace, and absenteeism.

“Labour authorities are important in helping to protect workers’ rights in line with government policies because this will allow workers to collectively bargain and obtain a fair share of benefits and be given security against risks to employment and wages,” Mr Phongsaysack said.

For several years, these workers have not had their rights upheld and have not been able to bargain with their employers or local authorities as they don’t know how to go about this.

Mr Phongsaysack said increasing numbers of workers are unfairly treated by their employers and businesses but the extent of the problem was difficult to judge as the government didn’t have exact statistics.

At present, 90 percent of Lao workers not employed in factories are continuing to work for businesses and in occupations without sufficient protection of their rights under the Law on Labour.

According to the Lao Federation of Trade Unions, many challenges remain in upholding workers’ rights given that trade unions have been established in only 30 percent of the 124,870 private businesses in the country.

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