Majority hold out as Sakura garment dispute drags on
NEARLY half of the 316 striking Sakura garment factory workers have returned to work, while the remainder are still holding out to see a reduction of the daily production target that was the primary cause of the work stoppage.
“We haven’t gone back to work,” said Ma Thu Zar Win, an employee who has worked at the Sakura operation for four years. “We will ask until we achieve our main goal. Compensation for the striking period is not important. We only want our original daily production [target reinstated].”
The workers who remain on strike outside the factory in Hlaing Tharyar township told The Myanmar Times yesterday that they were not satisfied with the Central Arbitration Council’s recent ruling in the Sakura dispute and would seek the assistance of Action Labor Rights, a local advocacy group.
“Now we are just starting our new plan to ask for our rights. We are still discussing with Action Labor Rights about how we will proceed,” said Ma Cho Cho Latt, one of the factory’s labour union leaders who is among the holdouts.
Workers outside the factory said that about 145 workers led by labour union chair Ma Tin Moe Khaing got back to work on September 17.
Calls by The Myanmar Times to Ma Tin Moe Khaing went unanswered.
“We were satisfied with the regional council’s ruling. But now we are not satisfied with the central council’s ruling because it’s a one-sided decision,” said Ma Nwae Nwae Ye, who joined the majority in holding out.
Ma Nwae Nawe Ye said most of the 145 Sakura employees who went back to work were also dissatisfied with the Central Arbitration Council decision despite returning to the production line.
“They all had to get back to work because they expect they will get a settlement if they discuss with factory officials about the daily production target,” she said.
A factory official declined to comment, saying she was not authorised to speak for the company, when contacted by The Myanmar Times yesterday.
The workers’ strike outside the Japanese-owned Sakura garment factory began in late July when factory officials tried to increase the workforce’s daily production targets without employees’ consent.
The workers balked, saying the new targets could not be met without increasing staff levels, and appealed to the township labour relations department to resolve the dispute.
The Yangon Region arbitrational body had instructed the factory to rehire the 316 striking workers, consult with them over revising production targets and compensate with back pay over the striking period.
Factory officials objected to those terms and appealed to the Central Arbitration Council, which on September 12 affirmed the order to rehire the workers but in a reversal ruled that they should not be paid for the period during which they were on strike.
The Central Arbitration Council did not weigh in on the dispute over production quotas, leaving that to be negotiated between employer and employees.
Ko Sai Yu Maung of Action Labor Rights told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the employer was not allowed to make unreasonable demands on its workers’ output.
“We will figure out a solution for their dispute. Actually, this dispute was not a big one, but the dispute became big because of labour officials who didn’t want to take responsibility,” he said.
He added that the arbitration councils had failed to properly consider whether the employer’s new production quotas were acceptable or not.
Factory owner Ito Kiyokazu opened the Sakura operation in 2006.
Striking workers sit outside the Sakura garment factory in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar township.