Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mandalay workers vow to continue protest

Without an amicable settlement in sight, Kan Kaung Chin Yadanar factory workers have vowed to continue their sit-in protest at the factory entrance in Bal Lin village of Mandalay’s Singaing township.

The 60 workers taking part in the sit-in at the factory, which makes wood products, said they would increase the momentum of the protest to fight for their rights, despite a notice issued by the employer on March 4 threatening to fire those who took part in the protest.

Worker leader Ko Htay Ko Ko Maung said the employer said previously that nobody would be fired while negotiations were ongoing.

“Now we have this notice. Who is breaking labour laws first? We think laws are there to protect employers.

“We are not going to retreat until we have a settlement for our demands. We will increase the tempo of this protest.

“We will continue consulting our fellow workers. We want the government to know our difficulties and help us find a solution,” he told The Myanmar Times.

Ko Htay Ko Ko Maung also said the workers had protested for a week and still no representative from the relevant ministry has gone to talk to them.

The protest, which was mainly over wages, began on February 28, and negotiations involving the employer, the workers, Hluttaw representatives and labour organisations on March 3 failed to reach a settlement.

Other demands by the workers include limiting working hours to 44 per week, maintaining previous salary rates, entitlement to welfare and employment benefits as per labour laws, access to a company doctor, rest areas for workers at the factory, and the right to protest without fear of being fired.

U Hlaing Win, the Hluttaw representative of Singaing township constituency 2, said they had successfully negotiated eight out of the workers’ 10 demands.

“We cannot negotiate for lunch breaks and the previous pay rates. We will continue to negotiate the issues in accordance with the current laws,” he said.

U Hlaing Win said the employer had explained that there was loss of profit due to difficulties in getting raw materials, which led to low production.

“We are now negotiating at the township level. If it does not work out, we will continue to negotiate under the guidance of the regional government.

“We will try our best as this factory has a history of yearly protests,” he said.

The factory employs over 2000 workers, and had seen protests over labour rights in previous years as well.


Translation by Win Thaw Tar and Swe Zin Moe