Workers Barred from Factory despite Strike End

By Nyein Nyein 12 November 2012

Around 300 workers from Taw Win carpentry factory in Rangoon’s Shwepyitha Industrial Zone have not been allowed back to work despite officially ending an almost three-week-long strike on Sunday after accepting a decision by the Labor Dispute Arbitration Court.

The ruling agreed to four of the workers’ five demands but factory owner Ko Ko Htwe apparently did not show up to hear the verdict.

Htet Ko Ko, who has worked at the factory for a year, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that, “Thet Naing Oo , the deputy director general from the Ministry of Labor, read us the verdict on Sunday that the employer should agree to our demands with just one exception.”

The workers had been striking for a total of 18 days. A protest took place in front of the factory for two weeks and then around 200 workers joined a demonstration in front of the Labor Office in Mayangone Township for four consecutive days.

Ten of the workers also went on hunger strike for 11 days. Some were hospitalized but able to return home on Sunday after receiving medical treatment.

The strike began on Oct. 25 with workers demanding an employment contract, to be allowed back into the factory and not to be forced to work outside where they could only perform menial tasks and not skilled woodwork. They also asked for workplace rules to be rewritten with their consent and social welfare cards to be issued.

The single exception that the arbitration court did not grant was the workers’ demand to be paid wages for their protest days. The court decided that this depended upon the employer. “However, the factory owner has not agreed with the workers since the beginning of the strike,” said labor activist Kyaw Min from the Action Labor Rights group in Shwepyitha Township.

Nevertheless, the court’s decision is apparently not the end of the matter as workers returning to the factory on Monday morning were denied access. “I went to the factory this morning,” said striker Ye Htet Htun. “But I was not allowed to enter.”

Strikers said that they will resume their protest if the employer keeps denying the arbitration court’s decision.

“Deputy Director-General Thet Naing Oo from Naypyidaw told us that he will help get our rights and if the employer, Ko Ko Htwe, does not follow the court decision, he will have to face the consequences,” said Htet Ko Ko.