Workers at Myanmar Coffee-mix Factory Stalled in Dispute With Management

2018-02-13
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Myanmar customers at a coffee shop in Yangon watch a live television broadcast of President Htin Kyaw delivering his first parliamentary address during his swearing-in ceremony, March 30, 2016.
Myanmar customers at a coffee shop in Yangon watch a live television broadcast of President Htin Kyaw delivering his first parliamentary address during his swearing-in ceremony, March 30, 2016.
AFP

Protesting Myanmar workers at a coffee-mix factory in the Yangon region are locked in a stalemate with management over wages and other contract terms after representatives from the two sides met for talks on Tuesday, a leader of a workers’ organization said.

Representatives for 700 of the Premier brand factory’s total 900 workers and management in Hmawbi township northwest of Yangon failed to reach an agreement on contract terms and will meet again tomorrow to continue discussions, said Khin Ma Ma of the plant's workers’ organization.

The organization is demanding that management increases wages, not transfer workers to other departments from their original departments that both sides previously had agreed upon in contacts, not to withhold wages of workers who apply for leave, and grant equal rights to contractors.

“Factory officials said they can’t talk with us,” Khin Ma Ma told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They will discuss our demands with us when we go back to work. We all told them we want to discuss the issues before we go back to work, because there is no guarantee for us.”

RFA’s Myanmar Service could not reach factory officials for comment.

Nearly a year ago, 700 Premier coffee workers struck to demand more privileges in their employment contracts, including10 days off during Thingyan, the Myanmar New Year festival that usually falls around mid-April, and other issues they wanted management to address, Eleven Myanmar media group reported.

Though management gave into the holiday demand, workers who camped outside the factory also called for no forced overtime shifts and no docking of pay or bonuses for refusing to work extra time.

In 2016, Myanmar’s labor ministry sued the company for violating labor laws after receiving complaints from some of its factory workers in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, who said they had not received full overtime payments or sufficient days off, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

Premier voluntarily compensated more than 300 workers, but the charges remained in place with the case subject to future court hearings, the report said. The factory asked the labor ministry for a clearer definition of the laws on compensation of daily wage workers.

Premier is a popular local coffee-mix brand that is part of Myanmar conglomerate Capital Diamond Star Group Co. Ltd., owned by businessman Ko Ko Gyi, who serves as its managing director.

Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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