Workers at the World Jin garment factory tried to end their strike yesterday, but when they returned to their jobs they found the factory had suddenly closed for a three-day unpaid holiday.
Their strike began on October 19 after a manager allegedly tried to hit some members of the staff. The largely female workforce said their South Korean production manager raised his arm preparing to strike them after they demanded overtime payment that had been ordered by the labour ministry. The boss, Mr Gan, told The Myanmar Times last week that he had not physically injured any workers.
A township arbitration committee intervened in the dispute after about half of the factory’s 560 workers hit the picket line and demanded Mr Gan be sacked. Yesterday morning, the workers and the factory management signed an agreement confirming the dispute over and that work would resume as usual.
According to Daw Khin Khin Aung, director of the township department of labour, the agreement stipulated three points: the workers would peacefully return to the factory on October 27, the day it was signed; the dispute would not result in the sacking of any employees; and the South Korean manager would no longer have authority over the production section of the factory. The workers said the initial issue of overtime pay had already been resolved.
But garment workers said when they tried to head back to the factory floor yesterday afternoon, they were suddenly informed of a three-day holiday.
“[The management] agreed with the mediation and signed the contract to allow the workers to resume work on October 27. But then they shut the factory for off-days, so once again, they are breaking their agreement,” said Ma Wutt Yi, a leader of the workers’ demonstration.
She added that the employees have filed a case against them for breaking the labour department’s orders. A court hearing is scheduled for October 31.
However, an official at the factory told The Myanmar Times that the factory was closed for the Thadingyut full moon festival.
World Jin factory owner Ms Jaung – who declined to provide her full name – said through a translator that only the workers who did not participate in the strike will receive their daily pay for the three days off. All workers will also be expected to come to the factory on Sunday, typically their one day off for the week.
“I won’t pay the strikers for the closed days,” Ms Jaung said.