According to the committee, the imprisonment penalty was not included in the proposal, as it was feared it could adversely affect foreign and local investment.
U Ba Shein of the committee said the bill did include the highest possible amount of fines for employers who violate the labour law, but prison time was ruled out in the interests of economic development.
He added there is a need to give businessmen a comfortable space to invest so that workers would have the widest choice of job opportunities.
“If employers are sentenced to jail, investors might leave the country,” he said.
The Settlement of Labour Disputes Law was enacted in 2012. It was amended in October after labour groups complained that employers were flouting the law because of its small fines.
Labour organisations then pushed for a second amendment to the law due to continued violations by employers. This time, they wanted prison penalties for scofflaws.
The Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house) passed the second amendment, which included up to three months’ imprisonment and a K10 million (US$6577) fine for employers who break the law.
According to the Pyithu Hluttaw’s meeting schedule, parliament might discuss the bill next week.
U Zaw Min Lat, secretary of the Amyotha Hluttaw’s Local and International Labour Committee, said that if the two bodies cannot agree on the amendments to the law, it will be brought to the joint session of parliament.
Daw Thet Thet Aung, director of the labour rights organisation Future Light Centre, said lawmakers should be open to the idea of including prison penalties in the bill in order to stop rampant labour rights abuses.
“I wonder why the lawmakers refuse to think about the concerns of the workers. We need to enforce the labour laws effectively,” she said.
She added that if the law does not include a prison penalty there will be more labour disputes and rights abuses by employers.
“Most employers don’t care about the law because they can afford to pay the fine, no matter how high it is,” she said.
U Khin Maung Aye, managing director of Lat War Garment Factory, said that a prison penalty in the law could cause businessmen to decide not to invest in the country.
“It might make investors hesitant to come. We employers hope the prison penalty would not be included in the law,” he said.
He said the current fine of K1 million is enough, as businessmen in the garment industry do not have K10 million capital in their businesses.