Myanmar Workforce Promised Govt Payments During COVID-19 Factory Closures

By Htet Khaung Lin 21 April 2020

Yangon — The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement will provide certain social security benefits for workers at factories that will have to close until April 30, according to director-general U Nyunt Win of the ministry.

The compensation scheme follows the ministry’s announcement on Sunday that factories will have to close for inspection until April 20 to check COVID-19 preparations.

The ministry said it would mainly inspect factories making pharmaceuticals, health care goods, processing food and anywhere with more than 1,000 staff.

The decision came amid fears over possible coronavirus infections among workers who have returned to work in Yangon from their home towns after the 10-day Thingyan vacation, which ended on Sunday.

The government is still determining how to calculate the social security payments, said U Nyunt Win. However, only employees who are registered on the government’s social safety net will be entitled to payments.

“Employees won’t suffer. They will get what they are entitled to despite the closures. But we are concerned that industrial disputes might arise and we have urged them to settle disputes through negotiations,” said U Nyunt Win.

Yangon Region’s minister for immigration and human resources, Daw Moe Moe Su Kyi, said the compensation scheme was being planned by the Union government, and that she did not know the details.

“While some want to take unpaid leave, some suffering from financial hardship want to get paid for that period. The Union government is still looking for the best possible options. We have only been instructed to inspect factories as quickly as possible,” said Daw Moe Moe Su Kyi.

She said 21 teams were inspecting factories in Hlaing Tharyar Township, which has the biggest industrial zone in Myanmar where hundreds of thousands of migrants work in factories.

Gatherings of more than five people have been banned to prevent the spread of coronavirus so employees could be sued under the Natural Disaster Management Law if they strike.

Hundreds of employees went to work on Monday in Ywathagyi Industrial Zone in East Dagon and South Dagon townships as they did not know about the ministry’s announcement. The industrial zone management committee had to send them home, according to HR manager U Zaw Zaw Aung of Kyauksein Shoe Factory.

While the majority of employees agreed to take unpaid leave until April 30, some workers insisted on being paid, he added.

“Some workers said they are in hardship. But it is difficult for employers to pay hundreds of employees while their factories are not producing anything,” he said.

Yangon has 680,000 workers at 6,632 factories, according to the regional government.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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