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Thousands of Myanmar garment workers go on strike to save jobs

Thousands of Myanmar garment workers went on strike in Yangon in a bid to halt imminent layoffs amid production slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a union leader said.

Ko Htet Aung, from Myanmar Industries Craft and Services Trade Union Federation (MICF), said the workers began their protest on Thursday at South Dagon Industrial Zone in the outskirt of Yangon.

The protesting workers are from the General Enterprises Garment factory, which announced the layoff of 8000 of its 10,000 workers next week, and from the LoadStar factory, which will also reduce its workforce by 400.

The management of the two factories said the retrenchment of workers is necessary since they have not received job orders from abroad as the pneumonia-like pandemic engulfed 175 countries.

They promised to provide compensation to the affected workers as stipulated in Myanmar laws.

But the protesting workers are not interested in compensation, according to Ko Htet Aung.

“We are not protesting for compensation,” he said. “We are asking to stop the dismissal of the workers. We demand that they do not dismiss us.”

At least 20 out of the 500 manufacturing facilities in Myanmar have shut down, leaving more than 10,000 potentially without jobs due to pandemic.

Most of the affected factories are in the garment manufacturing industry, whose supply chain from China was disrupted following the report of the first outbreak in Wuhan city on December 31.

Fifteen factories have ceased operations permanently, while five others stopped operating temporarily since January. Others have cut the number of workers.

Some raw materials from China have re-started to enter Myanmar through the Muse border in Shan State and via cargo planes from Guangzhou, leading to the resumption of operations of some factories. However, only 60 percent of the original workforce has been re-employed.

“We heard the raw materials produced before the Chinese Lunar New Year will be exported to Myanmar from now until May, but this will not be 100pc yet,” said U Myint Soe, chair of the Myanmar Garment Association. “The government should provide support in the meantime.”

The government has undertaken measures to help companies survive the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the garment industry, according to U Myint Soe, including providing loans of up to K100 billion with low interest rates.

This, however, will not be sufficient to support the industries worst-hit by the pandemic, experts said.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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