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With a roll-out across Burma of mobile phones, Internet packages and other telecommunications devices scheduled for next month, Telenor announced on Thursday that it has discovered cases of underage labour in its supply chain.
In a corporate webcast, Telenor said it had uncovered three situations where a total of six underage workers were employed by the group’s partners or sub-contractors, and that it had taken steps to remove the young people from the sites.
“We have a strict policy on underage labour,” Telenor spokesperson Hanne Knudsen told DVB on Friday. “All our partners in Myanmar [Burma] sign the Supplier Conduct Principles, which states that nobody under 15 years will be employed directly or indirectly for Telenor business. This is in line with recognised international ILO conventions. Additionally, Telenor Group has defined the age requirement for tower construction sites as a minimum of 18 years as we consider some aspects of work on construction sites as potentially hazardous.”
In its webcast, Telenor said that it had discovered two workers – one aged 17, one 17 and a half – who had been contracted at one of the company’s tower construction sites in Pegu [Bago]. Both young men were removed from the site, it said.
At a site in Mandalay, a sub-contractor reported to Telenor management that three children – two of whom were 12 years old and one 13 – were assigned to excavation work. The three were immediately removed from the site and an investigation launched, Telenor said.
A third case, also in Mandalay, uncovered a 15-year-old who was engaged in potentially hazardous work. As his father was also working on the site, the boy was transferred into the office to work.
“We recognise that despite our efforts to safeguard, there will always be a risk for violation within our supply-chain,” said Knudsen, adding that the Norwegian firm was working with a long-term focus on preventative measures.
Other workers’ issues covered in Thursday’s webcast included corruption, land issues, health and safety, and community outreach.
In an interview with DVB last Friday, Telenor’s Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg said that the company was readying to launch “sometime in September” and that it was looking to cover all regions of Burma within the first year of operations. He stressed however, that due to inaccessible and remote areas, it would take five years before everyone in Burma had access.
Telenor is one of just two foreign firms to be granted licences to operate telecoms services in the potentially lucrative Burmese market.
The other international company, Qatar-based Ooredoo, rolled out its product last week.
Several teething problems were reported, and amid much public criticism regarding service and charges, Ooredoo announced this week a series of changes to its mobile service packages.