MANDALAY — Dozens of workers from a plywood factory in Sagaing Industrial Zone began marching to Naypyidaw on Friday to demand labor rights.
The workers said their rights had been abused and the authorities had neglected their complaints, so they decided to march to Naypyidaw to meet with President Htin Kyaw.
“We’ve asked factory owners, local authorities, and even our leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to solve the problem; but, we were neglected,” said Khaing Min, who is leading the march.
According to the protestors, eight workers from Myanmar Veneer & Plywood Private Ltd.’s factory in Sagaing Industrial Zone were fired in July 2015 after a dispute over working hours.
An Indian national owns the factory, and tensions between Indian administrators and Burmese workers have been reported in the past.
The workers said the factory told them to work 12 hours a day. They negotiated an eight-hour workday, but the factory did not accept that.
“Since the eight workers, including me, worked eight hours a day instead of 12, the factory fired us,” said Khaing Min. “Moreover, they didn’t give us the salary or overtime payments specified in our contracts.”
According to the workers, they have staged protests in front of the factory since July, and began a sit-in in March.
“It has been 60 days and the factory authorities never showed up to talk to us,” Khaing Min explained. “During the first protest in 2015, they said they would negotiate with us but it never happened. Instead, they fired eight workers.”
“What we want is respect for our rights, and for factory authorities to talk and negotiate with us,” he added.
On the way to Naypyidaw, local police in Sagaing and Mandalay attempted to halt the protestors on Sagaing Bridge, but they continued on.
According to Sagaing divisional police, a case against the protestors has been opened under the 2011 Peaceful Assembly Law, because the workers did not seek permission to protest in advance.