Friday, August 18, 2017

Worker defy govt pleas, threats to end protest


Up to 1200 striking workers from factories in Yangon are refusing to reel in the picket lines and return to work, according to a government official.

The remaining strikers rejected a proposed modest increase to daily wages, U Htin Aung, the deputy minister of labour, employment and social welfare, said in a speech yesterday.

Most of the initial strikers have already returned to their factories after accepting a K300-a-day (30 US cents) bump in pay that will bring their daily earnings up to K700 (70 US cents).

Just over 2887 workers of the original 3803 have accepted the compromise, according to U Htin Aung.

On January 28, thousands of workers from Red Stone, Costec, E Land Myanmar and Ford Glory garment factories, as well as from Tai Yi shoe factory, began picketing.

The labourers’ list of demands varied by factory, but all were unanimous in seeking a K30,000-a-month pay increase.

Police beatings, arrests and negotiation offers have failed to sway nearly 1200 labourers who continued their campaign yesterday outside the E Land Myanmar garment factory of Shwepyithar Township, according to figures provided by the workers.

“We need more negotiations,” said Ma Aye Sanda Win, a labourer from Costec garment factory in Shwe Pyi Thar township.

“The government and the employers are cooperating to cheat. They told the media that the labour protests are over. That is absolutely wrong. We still strike,” she said.

According to Ma Aye Sanda Win, those who accepted the K300-a-day pay rise did so under duress and were not satisfied with the increase.

“Some of them are afraid of the February 20 arrests by police. And the rest were thinking about living costs,” she said.

In addition to the pay raise, the protesting workers are also demanding the release of two labour union leaders and an activist who allegedly lead the rallies and are facing charges of public disturbance. The trio will head to court for arraignments later this week.

Deputy minister U Htin Aung encouraged a swift end to the strike, and called on workers to head back to the factories for the health of the economy.

“No negotiation gets 100 percent approval. If the result is acceptable to you, you should agree,” he said.

Another official took a more threatening stance, however. U Zaw Ay Maung, deputy chair of the negotiation organisation for labour affairs of Yangon, warned protesters that if they did not call off the picket the government could issue an order under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that would ban public assemblies, marches and speeches, and impose a 6pm curfew.

Labourers said last night that they plan to continue the strike until their demands are met.