Telenor Myanmar uncovers child labour


Stamps down on use of child labour in new network build for troubled country

Mobile operator, Telenor, has stated it has uncovered the use of child labour in the build of its base station sites throughout Myanmar for the launch of commercial services in the country this September.

Children have been used by several contractors working to develop Telenor's new mobile network in Myanmar, the company said in its Myanmar sustainability update yesterday.

Altogether there have been three incidents of child labour being used in the build of sites around the country, despite the operator having implemented strict guidelines on the use of underage labour.

Underage labour is prevalent in Myanmar and is considered in general socially acceptable. Telenor requested that all its partners in the country sign the Supplier Conduct Principles, stating that no one under 15 years old will be employed, while for tower construction sites a minimum age of 18 has been applied as the work is deemed potentially hazardous.

On a tower construction site in Bago an on-site inspection identified two workers aged 17 and 17.5 years, who were later removed from site. At a site in Mandalay a tier two sub contractor reported three children, two aged 12 and one aged 13 years, doing excavation work for a tier three sub contractor. The children were removed from the site. Also in Mandalay, an on-site inspection identified a 15 year old working alongside his father who was employed by the sub-contractor. The boy had been sent to supplement the family income. He was later given a job in the company office instead. All incidents have been followed up by investigations, Telenor stated.

The sustainability update also covered corruption in Myanmar, which Telenor called a 'significant and real risk'. Telenor's approach internally has been to use training in Codes of Conduct and continuous communication, while for suppliers it has used contractual obligations, capacity building of suppliers, and review and participation in application submissions. The operator noted that the implications of its zero tolerance policy has meant 'sometimes encountering a less speedy process'.

Regarding conflict in Myanmar, Telenor stated that while there were bilateral ceasefire agreements with most armed ethnic groups, the country remained quite unstable. Telenor is working both with the Government and the ethnic groups in the States, and is using high standards for safety.

In a webinar yester, Telenor officials said: 'We realised early in our operation that each of the States have, to an extent, a self-governed structure. In order to successfully build our tower and distribution network to deliver on our commitment, we have to foster dialogue and work with both the Government as well as the both the army and armed and non-armed ethnic groups in the States. This is fundamental to reach 90% within five years and is recognised by our stakeholders.

'In all conflict areas we have dialogue with all concerned parties and our State Liaison Officers engage extensively with stakeholders. We continuously carry out risk evaluations and have guidelines for how we act in these areas, and human rights due diligence is part of our Group-wide policies.'

Telenor will launch its first services in Myanmar's three major cities–Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw. It has coverage requirements of around 90% in five years for its network, with 30% of the customer base in the ethnic states.


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