Over 5,000 Workers Still on Strike in Rangoon

By Nyein Nyein 22 May 2012

More than 5,000 workers in five different factories at Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone have been striking for better pay for two weeks.

The strikers are demanding a wage hike from 15,000 kyat (US $17.90) per month to 30,000 kyat ($35.80), which their employers have so far refuse to pay.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Ma Hmway, a worker at Pearl garment factory, said, “We have stayed sitting in front of the factory today as they have not agreed to our demands yet.” She added that her factory is owned by a Chinese national with items produced, such as jacket and pants, exported to the foreign market.

All the Hlaing Tharyar striking factories are close to one another with industrial action spreading to each over the course of a week. Since the middle of May, there has been a series of walk-outs in HI Mo wig factory, Sapae Pwint, Myanmar Pearl, Nay Min Aung, YJ and Tokyo garment factories, as well as Nawaday and Sunflower factories at different times.

Employees of the three garment factories—Sapae Pwint, Pearl and Nay Min Aung—gathered at the Labor Affairs Office in Rangoon’s Mayangone Township on May 16.

The following day, government authorities, including Lower House MP Aung Thein Lin from Rangoon’s South Oakkalarpa Township, met to negotiate with the factory owners. However, despite their involvement no progress has yet been made.

Ohmar Nyein, a female worker at Sapae Pwint garment factory, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that, “the authorities just favor the employers, we are told what their offer is but they are not listening to our demands.”

Aung Kyaw Thu, a worker at Nay Min Aung garment factory for one year, told The Irrawaddy that, “they still do not agree our demands to pay 30,000 kyat ($35.8) per month but have only agreed to our minor disciplinary demands.”

He added that he currently earns around 9,000 kyat ($10.8) per month, which amounts to a daily wage of 350 kyat ($0.42), and has to work for 26 days a month.

In the meantime, HI Mo wig factory workers have also resumed their strike despite reaching an agreement with the help of government officials on May 10. Workers said that the Korean owner of the factory would not honor the agreed wage hike which their manager promised.

The strikers have gained support from worker activists, labor lawyers and the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Worker representatives have visited the NLD’s Rangoon office twice to ask the party for assistance.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, NLD MP Min Thu, for Naypyidaw’s Oaktarathiri Constituency, said that his party’s patron Tin Oo is having meetings with the workers to help solve their disputes. He added that “the NLD will provide humanitarian aid to those strike workers who have been protesting for weeks.”

Apart from the industrial action taking place at Hlaing Tharyar, workers at other industrial zones such as Shwepyithar and in Hmawbi Township have also walked out to demand increased wages.

Around 500 employees of Crown Steel Industry in Hmawbi’s Myandakar Industrial Zone started striking on Monday to demand increased pay and respect for workers’ rights. Activist Myo Min told The Irrawaddy that the worker representatives of Crown Steel Industry went to report their grievances to Rangoon’s International Labour Organization on Tuesday.