Mandalay Textile Factory Rehires Fired Workers, But Protest Leaders Sued

By Zarni Mann 9 November 2018

PALEIK, Mandalay Region — A textile factory in Mandalay Region agreed on Thursday to rehire the 207 workers it fired three months ago, though police sued four of them the same day for their protest.

About half of the fired workers were on their way to the regional capital to ask the Mandalay chief minister to help them get their jobs back at the Panda Textile factor when three of their leaders were detained by police in Paleik on Thursday morning.

The three were released that evening after the protesters sat down in front of the local police station to demand their freedom. They also agreed to call off the protest after the factory promised to rehire all the workers it had fired.

However, the Paleik police filed a lawsuit against fourth of the protest leader — including the three they had detained — under articles 18 and 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, according to the workers.

“We are not surprised by the lawsuit because that’s how the authorities always work, without taking care of the welfare of the people. They only know how to take legal action,” said Ma Zarchi Win, one of the four who claim they were sued.

The workers also said that some of their demands had yet to be met, including that their water and electricity bills over the three months they were jobless be waived.

“We are going to meet with the factory authorities in the presence of lawmakers and local authorities to negotiate about the bills, and if there is a deal the workers and the factory will sign the agreement and the workers will go back to work,” Ma Zarchi Win said.

Police and factory representatives at the police station on Thursday declined to comment for this story.

The factory has seen its share of protests over the past five years.

After Panda took over the factory in 2013 from the Ministry of Industry, workers staged a series of protests claiming their labor rights were abused during the transition period.

In 2015, hundreds of workers set up a protest camp outside the factory to demand that 200 recently fired colleagues be rehired. The factory agreed to take a few dozen of them back, but two protesters died of pre-existing conditions during the sit-in and four of the leaders were fired.

Then in 2017, once negotiations to rehire the remaining workers fired in 2015 stalled, employees staged a protest in Mandalay City.