Thursday, February 18, 2010

In support of Burmese workers struggle for worker rights

Standing up for your rights takes a lot of courage - and there is always risks involved. 

And in a country like Burma (Myanmmar), under a 'notorious' military junta, it really takes even more uts for people to stand up for their rights...and it was recently reported that Burmese workers have decided to stand up in 2 factories...

And the government's response was to send '....more than 50 truckloads of riot police carrying batons and shields were deployed and at least six fire engines and five prison vans...'.

We call on the Burmese military government not to 'crackdown' on the workers, who have every right to demand their rights. It is hoped that the workers demands are given due consideration - and that they be paid a reasonable wage. 
Low wages, poor inhumane working conditions, etc are some of the reasons why so many people of Burma have fled to neighbouring Thailand and Malaysia.

ASEAN should maybe step in, to ensure that their member, the Burmese military government, do not further stifle the rights of these workers. Trade Unions from fellow ASEAN nations, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and others should also press for a fair resolution of what really is a dispute between workers and the employer. Better wages and better working conditions are long overdue in Burma...

Myanmar workers on strike

Truckloads of riot police carrying shields are parked on a road leading to Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Myanmar. Myanmar's military government tightened security at the industrial zone where factory workers were staging a rare strike for better pay. -- PHOTO: AP

YANGON (Myanmar) - MYANMAR'S military government tightened security on Wednesday at an industrial zone in Yangon where factory workers were staging a rare strike for better pay. 

Protests of any kind are unusual in Myanmar, where the junta does not tolerate dissent. 

Authorities used barbed wire barricades to block roads leading to the factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in the city's north-east, and more than 50 truckloads of riot police carrying batons and shields were deployed and at least six fire engines and five prison vans were parked near the factories. 

Workers at the Taiyee shoe factory and the Opal 2 garment factory began protests on Monday calling for higher daily wages, overtime payments and several other demands, said an official from the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The labour action spread to the Kya Lay garment factory on Tuesday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information. 

The workers, mostly women, staged protests outside the factories and inside a factory compound, where they sat down and refused to work. The three factories employ a total of about 3,600 workers. 

The official said factory owners and Labour Ministry officials were trying to settle the dispute, and some factories near those on strike had been closed to prevent the labour agitation from spreading. -- AP - Straits Times, 10/2/2010, Myanmar workers on strike

Around 2000 textile factory workers in Rangoon started striking on Monday evening, demanding a pay increase and reduced working hours.

Eye-witnesses said the situation is still tense with more than 30 riot police trucks and several fire engines stationed inside the factory zone. 

The strike started in the Mya Fashion garment factory in No. 3 Factory Zone of Rangoon's Hlaing Tharyar Township. The workers are demanding an increase in salary of 10,000 kyat (US$ 10), a reduction of working hours and the provision of a clean space for meals. Workers from nearby factories have reportedly joined the strike. 

Blocked by riot police trucks, fire engines and police custody vans, striking workers have been prevented from leaving the factory zone and no one has been allowed to enter, sources in Rangoon said. 

According to the latest reports, members of Union Solidarity and Development Association, a junta-backed organization have also arrived at the scene, and the strike continues. The workers have been warned to disperse peacefully or face a violent crackdown. 

The workers have to work from 7 am to 11 pm daily. In December, nearly 1,000 textile workers in Hlaing Tharyar staged a demonstration. Government officials were involved in negotiations with the workers over their demands, though it remains unclear as to how the issue was resolved.
The monthly income of most factory workers in Burma ranges from 20,000 kyat [$20] to 40,000 kyat [$40], forcing many to work overtime. Many factory owners employ temporary workers who have no legal recourse if they are fired without compensation, according to former factory workers in Rangoon.

More than 80 percent of factory workers in Rangoon work on a day-to-day basis. Most are young women between 15 and 27 years of age who come from the countryside in search of a better living.- The Irrawaddy, 9/2/2010, Authorities Threaten Violence at Rangoon Strike

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