Labour authorities say the government will protect the rights of all workers employed in development projects around the country, no matter how big or small the venture.
Laos will continue to work with its development partners for the protection of workers’ rights and benefits in large-scale projects such as the Laos-China railway.
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, said labour authorities’ policies had been successful in ensuring that Lao workers were able to uphold their rights while employed by the railway project.
He said the protection of workers was not just a matter of social security and social welfare; social protection went beyond that, by ensuring the legal rights of all Lao workers were upheld.
“Lao workers are in general benefitting from the Laos-China Railway Project because they are employed in line with agreements made between the two countries,” he added.
Unfortunately, some Lao workers employed by the project are denied their rights and have been unable to negotiate with their employers because they lack the authority and capacity to do so. This is especially true with regard to the slow payment of wages, and the provision of social welfare is poor, Dr Khampheng said.
After a number of workers complained about conditions, labour officials and volunteers collected information from various project sites about the issues that needed negotiation, he added.
The Lao government, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, has been working with the Chinese government to protect and promote the rights of Lao workers. Recently, Laos and China agreed to ongoing cooperation in the labour sector through a feasibility study of the construction of a new Skills Development Centre in Oudomxay province.
This facility will identify labour skill development needs in the north of Laos, in response to the needs of the railway project. An anonymous official from the Department of Labour Protection under the Lao Federation of Trade Unions said many workers still do not have access to the means to protect their rights.
He said they take risks in order to earn a meagre salary and often have little social or political recognition. Last year, some Lao workers asked the Federation for assistance regarding their salary and other basic rights, and these issues have since been resolved.
But an increasing number of workers on the Laos-China railway are reportedly unfairly treated by their employers, although the extent of the problem was difficult to judge because government officials don’t keep statistics on the matter, Dr Khampheng said. One railway worker said “I have worked on the project for about a year. We are not treated fairly because there are no social welfare provisions for Lao workers and we don’t get a holiday. We work from Monday to Sunday. And sometimes our employers fire workers without giving a reason.” / Vientiane Times / By Phetphoxay Sengapseuth / (Latest Update March 9, 2018)
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