Myanmar Garment Workers to End Strike After Government Mediates Labor Dispute

myanmar-garment-factory-yangon-oct15-2018.jpg Myanmar residents stand near the Chinese-owned Fu Yuen Garment Company Ltd. factory after armed thugs attacked and hospitalized some workers on strike, on the outskirts of Yangon, Oct. 15, 2018.

More than 100 Myanmar garment workers will return to work next week after the management of a Chinese-owned textile factory agreed to rehire 30 employees whose termination sparked a months-long strike, sources said Wednesday.

The 30 workers from the Fu Yuen Garment Company Ltd. in Yangon’s Dagon Seikkan township were sacked on Aug. 20 after demanding better work conditions and an end to mistreatment by factory owners, prompting others to establish a protest camp outside the facility the following day.

On Oct. 15, striking workers clashed with thugs hired by the factory, who attacked them with iron bars, leaving 25 laborers injured, and residents have demanded that police take action against those responsible. Two days later, authorities arrested two student union leaders after residents supporting the strikers fought with people still working at the factory.

The owner of the factory and striking workers signed an agreement Tuesday to rehire the 30 workers after mediation by Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, and the striking workers have pledged to return to their jobs on Nov. 6.

The agreement came days after the more than 100 workers marched in front of Maha Bandula Park in downtown Yangon, calling on the regional government to intervene on their behalf.

Aye Maw, the mother of a young man named Thet Paing Oo who was arrested by authorities on Oct. 17, told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Wednesday that she was happy the 30 workers had been rehired, but said she wants her son to return home to her.

“We live in this neighborhood and know everything about the Fu Yuen strike,” she said, adding that she and other residents support the striking workers “because we want justice.”

“My son tried to fight back against the people who attacked the strikers and he was arrested and charged because of this,” she said.

“Now, the Fu Yuen strikers are going home because they were victorious in their protest and I want my son to return like they are. I am so happy for these workers, but so sad because my son can’t come back to me yet.”

A female worker who was injured during the Oct. 15 clash, told RFA on condition of anonymity that she was still suffering from bone fractures of her arm and leg, but was happy that the labor dispute had been resolved.

“However, we will protest again if any injustice occurs,” she warned.

Thet Htar Swe, one of the leaders of the striking workers, said that the factory owner had been “stubborn” in negotiations until the Tuesday agreement.

“We only agreed because of Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein’s intervention,” she said.

The Fu Yuen garment factory opened in 2014 and employs more than 1,400 workers.

Reported by Aung Theinkha and Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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