Striking Workers Left in the Dark

By Nyein Nyein 31 May 2012

Some 2,000 workers on strike at the Hi Mo wig factory in Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone are in need of food and water as the Korean owner of the factory on Thursday cut all food supplies and electricity inside the workers barracks that they have been occupying at the plant.

“The workers were fed boiled rice this morning, and Myanmar Youth Union members are preparing dinner for them, but we also need drinking water,” said 88 Generation group leader Mar Mar Oo, who is one of the volunteers helping the strikers.

Myanmar Youth Union has been collecting donations, however, it is not enough for the thousands of striking workers in several factories in Hlaing Tharyar.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, former army captain Nay Myo Zin, who was a political prisoner and nowadays heads the Myanmar Social Development Network, said, “There is still nobody mediating in the dispute between the employees and the employers.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Lin Latt Khin, a female worker at the factory, said, “The factory management has reneged on its initial agreement of 30,000 kyat [US $35] monthly salaries. [Director General of the Worker Supervisory Office] U Win Shein even convinced us to accept just 15,000 kyat because [former factory manager] Nan Thao Yin has disappeared.”

The Hi Mo wig factory workers began their strike on May 9, but reached an agreement the following day with the management that wages be increased to 30,000 kyat. However, upon his return, the Korean factory owner refused to honour the agreement, and the workers resumed strike action on May 17.

The workers said they will continue their strike until the factory manager agrees the deal that was made three weeks ago.

“The Labor Ministry behaves more favorably to the factory owner than to the workers,” said Lin Latt Khin. “This dispute is definitely not settled yet.”

Nay Myo Zin called on MPs to intervene and solve the matter.

“It is not just one factory, but a whole series of factory disputes,” he said. “The factory owners simply refuse to negotiate because they believe the workers are powerless to resist them. They think that, eventually, the strikers will simply have to come back to work.

“It is a form of torture,” he said. “Today I watched as striking workers collected rainwater to drink as they had nothing else.”