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 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.