Government responds to accusations of mishandling labour protests

The Yangon Region government and Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security made announcements yesterday in response to criticism over their mishandling of workers’ protests in Yangon.

After the parliament and government failed to guarantee a minimum wage for manual labourers, the momentum of the protests increased. At the beginning of February, protests by employees of the E-Land Myanmar garment factory, Ford Glory factory and COSTEC International factory in Shwe Pyi Thar industrial zone intensified, raising concerns among authorities about the possibility of a mass demonstration.

On February 20, police dispersed the protestors in what many described as people a crackdown. Several workers sustained injuries.

The statement released by the Yangon Region government said the labour affairs negotiation team for Yangon region met with owners of the factories and representatives of the workers in Shwe Pyi Thar and Hlaing Tharyar industrial zones. The Yangon region government issued a notice on February 17 that the authorities would take action in accordance with existing laws against workers or factory owners who violated rules and regulations.

Authorities removed the temporary tents made by the protest workers in front of three the factories in Shwe Pyi Thar after the negotiations because workers from another factory and others joined the protest to create instability among workers. The authorities took action in accordance with existing laws and international standards, according to the statement.

The statement also described the injuries sustained by protesters as “unnecessary consequences.”
Workers from all factories except one factory received pay raises, and conditions are stable, the statement said. Authorities will conduct further negotiations and will take action if the protests turn violent or break any laws.

In the announcement of ministry of labour, the factories currently facing protests are run by foreigners operating in line with foreign investment laws, and the factories have not run for about two weeks. The factories have made no profits, as they cannot manufacture goods to satisfy their orders, and customers stopped placing purchase orders. They are likely to be blacklisted as they cannot produce the goods in time. The workers also face difficulty, as they have not received salaries, the statement said.

The ministry of labour also said it will deal with the disputes between the owners and the workers in accordance with existing laws. It issued a warning that the ministry will cooperate with local authorities to take action against illegal violent protests and against people who sow instability by encouraging demonstrations.

Source: Eleven Myanmar

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