Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is about people – people working together to make things better for all. As the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, each and every APHEDA supporter, member, partner, activist and participant here in Australia and all around the world contributes to the work it takes to tackle inequality and injustice.
Wulandari is our newly appointed country coordinator in Myanmar. We are excited to have her working with us. Wulan previously worked with Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC).
How long have you been working with Union Aid Abroad APHEDA and what is your role?
I am new at Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA. I started in April 2018 and my role is managing APHEDA’s country program in Myanmar with trade union development as the main focus at the moment. We work with local groups and unions to support their capacity to organise workers as well as bargain for better wages and conditions. Another area of our work includes looking into the working conditions of the invisible workforce in the informal economy in the supply chain of the garment sector (home-based garment workers).
Why is being union important to you?
Being union is important to me because union is the collective power of the working people. The right to freedom of association is a fundamental aspect of society. Here in Myanmar, by being unionised, workers become part of the collective action for better working conditions and better laws.
What does it mean to be APHEDA to you?
To be APHEDA means to be part of the global justice and solidarity movement.
What part of your work are you most looking forward to? Why?
With our local partner organisations Action Labor Rights (ALR) and Labour Rights Defenders and Promoters (LRDP), we are mapping union membership and mapping garment supply chains to identify where the unorganised workers are. This will help our partners identify key organising areas. We are using participatory action research, and we hope to see increased membership of workplace level unions, improvements in skills in leadership as well as democratic union management.
We are looking forward to working with various groups in Myanmar including community-based organisations, women’s rights groups, migrant workers organisations and the Global Union Federations (GUFs). By having a specific country program in Myanmar, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA looks forward to collaborating with all our partners to realise our strategic plan on trade union development, climate justice, migrant worker’s rights and women’s rights.
Why is it important for Australian unionists to support Union Aid Abroad APHEDA and support the growth of unions in Myanmar?
The union movement in Myanmar is still young and needs support! Unions in Myanmar in the last few years have been fighting for better laws on Labour Organization and Dispute Settlement. The existing rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining will need to be enforced. Unions have been working on collective strategies to influence policy making by scaling up and strengthening well-organised workplaces. We need more of this and Australian unionists can help.
Myanmar is a country with a large proportion of young workers; 20 percent of the 22.38 million strong workforce are young workers. Through trade union development work, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA also nurtures the emergence of young leaders in the union movement in Myanmar. They are millennials, familiar with social media and who are open-minded.
Australian unionists could also get behind APHEDA’s work in ensuring the protection of rights to occupational health and safety in Myanmar. At present, Myanmar is the chair for workplace safety and health in the ASEAN region. This can be an opportunity for unions to improve OHS rights by raising safety issues, occupational and chemical exposure hazards, underpinned by strong organising work and collective bargaining action.