Af­ter strike, fac­tory keeps up pro­duc­tion quo­tas

Ap­pear­ing to flout a re­cent com­pro­mise with work­ers, the Sakura gar­ment fac­tory said it will con­tinue to in­sti­tute daily pro­duc­tion tar­gets that trig­gered three months of protest.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­times.com

THE Sakura gar­ment fac­tory has gone back on its prom­ise to al­low protest­ing work­ers to re­sume their for­mer pro­duc­tion tar­gets, in­stead in­sist­ing on in­creased amounts that trig­gered nearly three months of strikes.

Ear­lier this week, it seemed that a truce had been bro­kered be­tween the dis­put­ing par­ties. Fol­low­ing the in­ter­ven­tion of Hlaing Thara­yar town­ship law­mak­ers, strik­ing work­ers and the fac­tory man­agers meted out a com­pro­mise. The work­ers agreed to end the picket, and the fac­tory would fol­low the ar­bi­tra­tion coun­cil’s or­der to re­hire the em­ploy­ees.

Fol­low­ing the ar­bi­tra­tion meet­ing, it was an­nounced that the fac­tory had agreed to al­low the protest­ing work­ers to re­sume their jobs at the fac­tory with the for­mer, base­line pro­duc­tion tar­gets.

Now it seems that the dis­pute is back to square one. Fac­tory of­fi­cials have in­sisted on the in­creased tar­gets which came into ef­fect on Au­gust 1.

“We re­turned to work be­cause of the agree­ment we made with the fac­tory with the help of lo­cal MPs. Our dis­putes won’t end if the fac­tory asks us to work with their new daily tar­get. Not all work­ers ac­cept these new tar­gets,” said Ma Cho Cho Latt, a work­ers union mem­ber from the Sakura gar­ment fac­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to fac­tory of­fi­cials, around 300 work­ers are re­fus­ing the in­creased tar­gets while an­other 200 have ac­cepted them.

While the work­ers who ac­cept the in­creased tar­gets have work to do, fac­tory of­fi­cials say that there is no work for the re­main­ing 300 work­ers who do not agree to the new tar­gets.

“The fac­tory will not ex­ist if we re­turn to the pre­vi­ous pro­duc­tion tar­gets. It will have to close. So we don’t need work­ers who only want to work to the pre­vi­ous tar­gets,” said Hisahi Takata, the fac­tory’s gen­eral man­ager.

“A worker from of one our sub­con­trac­tor fac­to­ries can pro­duce six items of cloth­ing a day on av­er­age. But work­ers at this fac­tory can make only three items of cloth­ing. This is not good for our busi­ness,” Mr Takata said.

Work­ers at the fac­tory, lo­cated in Hlaing Thar­yar town­ship’s in­dus­trial zone 3, walked off the job on July 29 af­ter learn­ing that their pro­duc­tion tar­gets would be in­creased.

Ac­cord­ing to the strik­ing work­ers, the new quo­tas were im­pos­si­ble as they were al­ready un­der­staffed and work­ing as hard as they could.

“Our sec­tion had to pro­duce a tar­get of 139 items of cloth­ing each day with 33 work­ers. We all faced dif­fi­cul­ties if some­one was ab­sent and we had to work ex­tra to cover their share of the tar­get. Now, the fac­tory has added 15 to 20 items to our tar­get. That is im­pos­si­ble for us,” said Ma Cho Cho Latt.

Since the in­dus­trial ac­tion be­gan, the dis­pute has been me­di­ated nu­mer­ous times by dif­fer­ent dis­pute set­tle­ment bod­ies.

On Septem­ber 12, the Cen­tral Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil ruled that the fac­tory must re­hire the strik­ing work­ers, which they had ear­lier re­fused to do, though they were not re­quired to back-pay them for the time spent on strike.

The coun­cil did not weigh in on the dis­pute over pro­duc­tion quo­tas, leav­ing that to be ne­go­ti­ated be­tween em­ployer and em­ploy­ees.

When asked for com­ment, fac­tory of­fi­cials said they would re­spond de­ci­sively to work­ers who don’t co­op­er­ate with their tar­gets.

Aside from stand­ing by the in­creased pro­duc­tion tar­gets, fac­tory of­fi­cials have also an­nounced that all work­ers will be re­quired to en­ter into an em­ploy­ment con­tract within the week.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Takata, those who do not sign the em­ploy­ment con­tract will no longer be con­sid­ered the fac­tory’s em­ploy­ees.

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