Myanmar: Garment factories workers at Shwepythar industrial zone strike over living wage

Foto: The Irrawaddy

Over a hundred workers at garment factories in Shwepyithar Industrial Zone have been protesting to demand better wages since February 2015. The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) - to which the factories belong - and the Myanmar government issued a statement on the strikes, warning that they would negotiate, but that they would take legal action in cases where the law has been breached. At the beginning of March the police arrested at least 20 striking workers and charged 14 of them with rioting. 


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6 March 2015

Myanmar police arrest striking garment workers

Author: Yen Snaing, Irrawaddy (Myanmar)

"Police Arrest Protesting Garment Workers", 4 March 2015

Police in Rangoon Division...arrested at least 20 striking workers...who had begun a sit-in protest...About 100 workers from COSTEC and Ford Glory garment factories in Shwepyithar Industrial Zone, who have been protesting to demand a pay rise from their employers for over a month, began a fresh sit-in protest...after a planned march to City Hall was blocked by hundreds of police...On Feb. 2, about 2,000 employees of the E-Land Myanmar, COSTEC and Ford Glory garment factories began a strike to demand a raise in monthly wages to 80,000 kyat [US$78], up from 50,000 kyat. The factories, which are owned by Chinese and South Korean firms, according to the workers, rejected the demands and offered 62,000 kyats. While some laborers have since returned to work, about 600 workers from the COSTEC and Ford Glory factories remain on strike...Workers have also demanded the introduction of a set, fair minimum wage; firm action against employers that break the law; compensation during the negotiation period; and the release of striking laborers who have been arrested in recent weeks.

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6 March 2015

Myanmar police charge 14 striking garment workers with rioting

Author: San Yamin Aung, Irrawaddy (Myanmar)

"14 Garment Workers Charged with Rioting", 5 March 2015

Fourteen striking garment workers have been charged with rioting, police in Rangoon said..., punishable by up to two years in prison...[P]olice dispersed a sit-in of about 100 employees of the E-Land, COSTEC and Ford Glory Garment factories in the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone, after authorities thwarted their attempt to march to City Hall...[H]ead of Rangoon’s East District police and a member of the divisional Labor Affairs Negotiation Team, told a press conference...that the force had “filed a lawsuit against 14 workers under Article 147” of Burma’s Penal Code. He said that the 14 detainees, eight men and six women, were guilty of rioting as defined by Article 146, which states that if force or violence is used by any member of an unlawful assembly, “every member of such assembly is guilty of the offense.” Article 147 states that the crime is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine, or both. Police displayed a video of some of the demonstrators throwing stones, but it was unclear if the 14 suspects were the perpetrators. Authorities said they dispersed the demonstrators without excessive force. “Some of the workers didn’t accept the negotiations, and some of them violated the law,” said...the Labor Affairs Negotiation Team and Rangoon Division minister for Arakan affairs. “We handled it gently without hurting anyone and in accordance with the law.” He added that about 1,815 of nearly 3,000 employees at the three factories have returned to work. Three other workers are also facing charges related to the strikes under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code, an oft-criticized incitement clause criminalizing statements or materials that could cause “fear or alarm” among the public and lead to offenses.

5 March 2015

Myanmar: Strikes & protests at Yangon industrial zones highlight labour laws shortcomings, unions say

Author: Nyan Lynn Aung & Noe Noe Aung, Myanmar Times

"Protests highlight labour law shortcomings: activists", 27 Feb 2015

Labour groups have blamed weaknesses in the legal framework for an outbreak of protests at factories in Yangon that has resulted in confrontations between workers and police. While most workers from five strike-hit factories in Yangon industrial zones have agreed to return to work, some remain on the picket lines...Trade Union Federation (MTUF) said the Settlement of Labour Dispute Law was unable to resolve the current problems. “Laws that were enacted … cannot protect the workers. Not only are workers losing their rights but owners are also having problems too. These laws cannot solve [disputes] or protect both sides from losses,”...[W]orkers from the Red Stone, Costec, E Land Myanmar and Ford Glory garment factories and Tai Yi shoe factory – located in the Shwe Pyi Thar and Hlaing Thar Yar industrial zones – went on strike, issuing a range of demands to factory owners. While these varied between the factories, all groups sought a K30,000-a-month pay increase...[T]he Yangon Region government attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with the workers, and three days later they sent police to close down the strike camps. However, this resulted in violence between police and striking workers...[T]he Arbitration Council created under the Settlement of Labour Dispute Law to resolve disputes, said both workers and employers regularly violated provisions of Myanmar’s labour laws with impunity...

Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association and the Yangon Region government issued a statement on the strikes, warning that they would negotiate but also take legal action in cases where the law has been breached.

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