Ma­jor­ity hold out as Sakura gar­ment dis­pute drags on

The Myanmar Times - - News - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

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.

Photo: Zaw Zaw Htwe

Strik­ing work­ers sit out­side the Sakura gar­ment fac­tory in Yan­gon’s Hlaing Thar­yar town­ship.

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