Sakura garment factory strike ends with negotiations
THE strike at Sakura garment factory is finally over, two months after it began. The truce required the intervention of lawmakers to negotiate a reduction of daily production targets.
“Now, we have all returned to work at the factory,” said Ma Thuzar Win, a sewing operator. “Factory officials agreed to pay us our wages again starting from the date we returned to the factory.”
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 picketing workers split ways on September 17 when about half of the protesters decided to return to the factory production line. But 171 workers kept the protest going, dissatisfied with the Arbitration Council’s ruling, which did not resolve the primary concern – production quotas.
The Yangon Region arbitrational body had instructed the factory to rehire the 316 striking workers, consult with them over production expectations and compensate with back pay over the striking period. Ruling on an appeal, the central Arbitration Council upheld the ruling on September 12, minus the stipulation of back pay.
But as the dispute resolution body did not weigh in on the production quotas, leaving the issue to be negotiated between employer and employees, workers said they feared returning would result in their concerns being steamrolled.
On September 21, members of the Hlaing Tharayar township branch of the National League for Democracy arranged negotiations between the factory officials and remaining protesters.
“We were worried about the strikers. They could have faced legal action if they failed to obey the council’s ruling and did not go back to work. So we arranged talks,” said Yangon Region MP U Myat Min Thu (NLD; Hlaing Tharyar 2).
He said the factory agreed to allow the protesting workers to resume their jobs at the factory with the former, baseline production targets. The workers agreed in front of the labour officials and the MPs. He added that factory officials also promised compensation for the strike period, and to obey all labour laws going forward.
“We agreed to go back to the factory after some consolations and compromises,” said Ma Cho Cho Latt, a union leader and one of the striking workers.
She added that all workers agreed to sign employee contracts.
Factory officials declined to comment on the settlement when contacted by The Myanmar Times on September 23.