Shwe Pyi Thar workers launch hunger strike

Angered that the establishment of a national minimum wage has led to effective pay cuts of about 30 percent, workers from the Han Jen garment factory in Yangon’s Shwe Pyi Thar township have mounted a hunger strike.

They are demanding the reinstatement of the allowances and bonus the management abolished when the minimum wage came into force last month.

After the minimum wage was set at K3600, the factory stopped paying allowances and bonuses, said representatives of the 1057 Han Jen workers, who stopped work on September 23. They said their hunger strike had started on October 5.

“Many workers don’t earn enough to live. We will keep making our demands until we reach a compromise,” strike leader Ko Kyaw Myint told The Myanmar Times.

The 20 workers participating maintain the hunger strike during working hours, from 7:30am to 4pm, said the workers involved.

“We were asked to sign an unconditional agreement, and refused. We haven’t had a proper response yet to our demands,” said hunger striker Ma Zin Mar Than.

Before the introduction of the minimum wage, workers say they received a total monthly payment between K135,000 and K150,000.

“Since the management cut all the allowances and bonuses we got before, we only get K108,000 a month. That can’t cover our living costs,” said Ma Zin Mar Than who said she previously received about K150,000 a month.

Six union representatives were sacked last month for “quarrelling in the workplace” after asking the management to restore half the allowances and bonuses. Workers said the factory acted without notifying the official mediation teams.

Factory manager Ko Phyu Htwe said the workers went on strike in support of a demand to re-employ the dismissed union leaders and to restore the previous allowances and bonus.

The stoppage occurred on September 23, when the management asked workers to sign an agreement to work peacefully, and barred from the premises anyone who refused to sign.

“I don’t know if they’re eating or not. The mediation team will deal with this problem,” he said.

Yangon Region Department of Labour deputy director Daw Lwin Lwin Myint said the dismissal of the six union representatives was under investigation by a tribunal.

Source: Myanmar Times

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