NLD rejects demands to reopen party offices despite junta crackdown
About 2,000 workers at a garment factory in the Zaykabar Industrial Park in Yangon, Mingaladon Township, went on strike on Thursday morning, saying violations of their basic rights had become unbearable.
The workers are employees of the JW factory, which is owned by Great Glowing Investment and operated by another factory in the industrial park: ADK, or “A Dream of Kind”. They are both run by the same Canadian nationals, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Business Administration.
The factories would make clothes for international sportswear brands, including Crivit, and employ nearly 7,000 people.
About 20 junta soldiers and police also arrived at the industrial park around 11 a.m. to talk to factory management, according to the strikers. The outcome of the discussion was not known at the time of writing the report.
“Representatives of the Department of Labor Affairs [within the military council] came to negotiate, but this ministry is full of people on [the employer’s] side,” said a 22-year-old woman participating in the walkout.
The woman, who is also a final year student in Dagon University’s distance learning program, began working at the site in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. She was hired at a pay rate of 4,800 kyat (US$2.50) per day and 1,200 kyat (US$0.65) per hour for overtime – Myanmar’s minimum wage.
She told Myanmar Now that she had to work 12-hour days six days a week and that her employer pushed workers to make more than 60 garments per hour, a quota they could not meet.
“We can barely make 45 pieces per hour, but now they are asking us to finish 62 pieces per hour,” she told Myanmar Now. “Injustice is widespread here. Workers cannot exercise any of the rights to which we are entitled.
In order to meet performance expectations set by factory management, she added that it became difficult to take a 30-minute break for lunch or use the restroom during their shifts.
Another 21-year-old Bago woman participating in the strike said she only received a monthly salary of 270,000 kyats ($145) and was forced to work more than 100 overtime hours.
“They keep cutting our wages [for not meeting their requirements]. In this system, there are more punishments than rewards for us,” she said.
Many factories in Yangon are located in townships where the military has declared martial law, including Hlaing Tharyar, North and South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan, North Okkalapa and Shwepyitha.
According to the International Labor Organization, widespread factory closures following the February 2021 coup contributed to the loss of jobs for some 1.6 million workers across the country.
Factory workers in Yangon were among the first members of the public to protest the coup. Some 16 labor organizations were subsequently banned by the junta, and union members and leaders charged with incitement.
Ye Naing Win, the general secretary of one of the banned groups – the Trade Union Coordinating Committee – recently described in Myanmar Now how labor rights had deteriorated further since the coup, factory workers being underpaid and unfairly fired, and the complaint mechanisms under the junta generally favoring employers.