Owner of closed garment factory compensates workers at last
MORE than two months after the manufacturing operation’s closure, the South Korean owner of Hla Won Htet Tha garment factory has finally paid his 85 former employees in full, according to the Hlaing Tharyar township Labour Relations Department.
“The factory owner paid back the rest of the unpaid wages, as he promised,” department director U Khin Maung Cho said yesterday. “So, we do not need to file a tax lawsuit.”
The outstanding compensation was paid out on September 10.
The Korean-owned factory opened in the Shwe Lin Ban industrial zone in 2013 and closed its doors on June 25 of this year, without a plan for how to compensate the laid-off workers.
After the disgruntled workers raised the issue, they were given salaries for their work through June, but not their severance payments, which are required by law.
Workers protested twice in front of the shuttered factory and received partial severance payments on July 17. The owner promised, in a contract that was signed in front of Labour Department officials, to fork over the rest by August 7, but that date came and went without payment.
A Hlaing Tharyar township court hit the owner with a K500,000 (US$410) fine on September 1 for failing to pay the workers at the promised date. Labour officials threatened to file an additional tax lawsuit if he did not pay up and the owner appealed the decision, promising to pay on September 10.
Factory labour leaders have complained that labour officials failed to stand by the workers’ side.
“The factory boss has never been afraid of laws,” said labour leader Ma Win Win Soe. “Our officials are afraid of him because our officials had to obey the decision of the factory owner.”
Labour officials set the factory owner’s pay dates without consulting the workers, she added.
The workers, many of them remaining unemployed, had to wait more than two months to receive the K5.8 million that was owed to the group, she said.
U Khin Maung Cho defended the labour officials’ conduct, saying such disputes require step-by-step resolution that at times involves waiting for further instructions from higher authority while adhering to regulations and laws.
“We understand the feeling of the workers,” he said. “They want their wages as fast as they are legally entitled to them. That is not wrong.”