Myanmar Govt: Workers at 9 Foreign Companies Have Organized Major Strikes in 2019

By Myo Pa Pa San 22 November 2019

YANGON—Extended workers’ strikes have taken place at nine foreign-owned companies since January, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). Short strikes also took place at four foreign-owned factories in the first half of November alone.

These industrial disputes have been most common in the garment industry, according to DICA Director Daw Khin Ohmar Aung. She added that there might be more cases of industrial disputes that were not reported to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), a part of DICA.

“One of the main complaints is about overtime. Workers complained that they were forced to work overtime,” said Daw Khin Ohmar Aung.

The MIC issued a statement in September that urged employers to follow the rules and regulations regarding overtime issued by the Factory and General Labor Laws Inspection Department, according to DICA Director General U Thant Sin Lwin.

“If an employer wants to ask his employees to work overtime, he has to seek the approval of the Factory and General Labor Laws Inspection Department. If workers file a complaint with the Factory and General Labor Laws Inspection Department and the department finds that workers are forced to work overtime without its approval, it can impose a fine on the employer,” said U Thant Sin Lwin.

“In two cases, disputes arose when factories wanted to move to new locations, but employees said the new locations were far away and they could not work there,” she said.

Industrial disputes were settled by the Labor Ministry at six factories, including those of Young Clothing, Honor Apparel, Kamcaine Manufacturing Myanmar, Myanmar Sumec Win Win, Seinus Cliq Fashion and Bellmart (Myanmar).

The MIC has not released a list of companies that are still involved in industrial disputes.

Ma Aye Sandar Win, a member of the Yaung Chi Oo trade union, said that some township-level labor relations officials with the Ministry of Labor have failed to properly enforce the Settlement of Labor Dispute Law.

“Also in some recent cases, foreign employers gave instructions directly to employees, without using an interpreter. This has led to some problems,” she said.

Daw Khin Ohmar Aung added that some complaints have also come from employers.

“Another complaint came from employers, saying that they were forced to appoint day laborers as permanent employees,” she said.

Ma Aye Sandar Win said that industrial disputes have also come about because some inexperienced workers may file complaints with the government over issues that should not be handled via the formal complaint system.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko