Camera factory workers strike over allowance

Workers at a camera lens factory in Pyin Oo Lwin township, Mandalay Region, walked off the job because they say the introduction of the minimum wage has led to their pay being cut.

The strike is the latest in which workers say factory owners have responded to the minimum wage law by apparently cutting allowances and bonuses, making workers worse off than before.

The industrial action at the Burst Transmission factory, at the Yadanarpon Cyber City complex near Thone Daung village in Pyin Oo Lwin, started on October 8. Workers have put forward four demands: to have Saturdays and Sundays recognised as weekends, to receive overtime for days off worked, to receive 10 days’ continuous leave if necessary, and to allow sick leave.

Workers also want the food and accommodation allowances abolished by management to be reinstated. The demand for the recognition of weekends is related to the deduction of about K24,000 from their wages last month, said one of the workers, Ma Aye Mya Kyi.

“They cut our accommodation allowance when our pay was raised,” she said.

The factory employs about 900 workers, of which about one-third are on strike.

In Yangon, workers at the Han Jen garment factory in the Shwe Pyi Thar industrial zone started a hunger strike on October 5. They are demanding that their bonuses, such as transportation and meal allowances, be reinstated. The labour ministry has said that many factories have experienced unrest since September 1, when the K3600 minimum wage was introduced.

Ma Aye Mya Kyi said the company had promised to cover workers’ accommodation costs when they were hired.

“Cutting that accommodation allowance just when the government has introduced the minimum wage is inappropriate. Besides, they are making us work Saturdays, and docking K3600 for absence. This is just wrong,” he said.

Another worker, Ma Khin Pyone, said supervisors had warned workers they would be fired if they don’t return to work within the next 10 days. “But we will stay out until our demands have been met,” she said.

“We want decent meals. We don’t want to have our pay cut when we’re out sick,” said worker Ma Lin Lin. “Despite saying our salary would be K108,000, we actually received about K90,000.”

Factory officials declined to respond to questions from The Myanmar Times. U Kyaw Than Htut, a Ministry of Employment and Social Security official for Pyin Oo Lwin township, said negotiations were ongoing.

It is not the first time the factory has been hit by industrial unrest. In June 2013, more than one-third of the factory’s workforce resigned after the owner refused to meet their wage demands.

Source: Myanmar Times

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