Striking Burmese workers at a garment factory in Jordan are preparing to sue their employers for abuse and neglecting the rights of employees following an incident on Saturday in which at least four workers were injured.
“One male and three female workers were injured when the factory supervisors and some local workers came to their hostels and dragged them out of their rooms and forced them to go to work. When they refused, they were beaten,” said Htun Htun Soe, one of the striking workers.
“Since this action threatened us despite our peaceful demands, we are planning to sue the factory management,” he added.
The workers said that they have asked the Burmese embassy in Israel and the Burmese Ministry of Labor to help resolve the dispute. However, it is not yet clear if they will get involved in the case, as Burma has no diplomatic presence in Jordan.
“So far, the only help we’re getting is from a Jordanian labor rights group. The factory hasn’t said anything at all, except, ‘Those Burmese will go back to work when they’re starving.’”
More than 1,200 female and around 100 male workers are employed at the factory, which is owned by the Century Miracle Apparel Mfg. Co., Ltd and located in an industrial zone in the northwestern Jordanian city of Ar Ramtha.
Around 30 Burmese workers began the walkout on Feb. 14 to demand better working conditions, better pay and an end to discrimination based on racial background. Later, more than a thousand other Burmese workers joined the strike.
The protesters say that some Burmese who have worked there for about two years have not received any increase in their initial salary of US $155 per month, while workers from other countries are paid up to $200. Some newcomers also say that they are not receiving the wages promised in their contracts.
Tensions between the workers and the factory have worsened since the incident on Saturday, which prompted the workers to march to the local police station to demand justice.
While they remain defiant, the striking workers say they are also facing difficulties feeding themselves since their incomes were cut off.
“We are nearly broke because we don’t have our salaries. We are sharing our food, but I don’t know what will happen in the coming days. We need help,” said Zarni Aung, one of the protesting workers.
“Most of us just want to go back home, as we feel we are not safe here. But we can’t go back because we can’t afford the airfare,” he added.
“So we decided we will only go back after we have received compensation for what we have suffered. However, some of the workers are hoping to stay if our demands are met.”