ACTIVITY SHEET 3
International Labour Rights The purpose of this activity is to explore and compare case studies drawn from developing countries where UnionAID currently has projects with case studies and participants’ experiences from New Zealand, in relation to non‐compliance with core human rights standards laid down by international law. For further information see Fact Sheets 5, 9 and 10. Consider the following case studies and discuss the questions raised below:
CASE STUDY 1 Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot Thailand. Sandar is a 23 year old Burmese migrant worker who crossed the border to Mae Sot to escape the poverty and oppression of the military dictatorship in Burma. She has a job in a sweatshop clothing factory where she is paid a very low wage, lives on site, and is not allowed to leave except for an hour or so on Sunday. She and other workers want to improve their conditions but they are aware of beatings and even the deaths of other workers who have challenged their employer. Workers in New Zealand under the Employment Contracts Act in the 1990s. The ECA which was introduced in 1991 contained many restrictions which made it difficult for workers to join unions and to engage in collective bargaining as a result of which the number of collective agreements fell dramatically and wages and conditions of employment were reduced. Questions for discussion: •
What labour rights/standards do you think were being infringed in each country?
What strategy would you advise Sandar and her workmates to take to improve their situation?
What similarities and/or differences do workers face in Mae Sot compared with New Zealand?
For extra information see Fact Sheets 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10.
CASE STUDY 2
Meenakshi is a 35 year old mother of three children under 12 years of age. She was born into a very poor Dalit (untouchable) community in Tamil Nadu South India. Because she is a Dalit woman at the bottom of India’s caste system she is not allowed to wear a blouse under her sari, sandals on her feet or enter the temple. She works for a local landowner as a bonded labourer* and is subjected to frequent abuse. Her children are required to undertake unpaid domestic work in the homes of dominant castes. Questions for discussion: What labour rights/standards do you think are being infringed?
What strategy would you advise Meena and her workmates to take to improve their situation?
*Bonded labour is a form of
slavery as workers get paid only in food, so they have no money for things like health care, transport or schooling for their children. This means they are totally dependent on the land owner for their survival. They are not free to make choices about where to live or work.
What similarities and/or differences do workers face in India compared with New Zealand? For extra information see Fact Sheets 1, 2, 3, 9, 10.