Thai oil firm or­dered to re­hire dis­missed Myan­mar work­ers

The Myanmar Times - - News - ZAW ZAW HTWE za­wza­whtwe@mm­

THE Yan­gon Re­gion Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil (YARC) has or­dered Thai firm PTT Ex­plo­ration and Pro­duc­tion to re­hire 18 Myan­mar work­ers who were found to have been dis­missed with­out cause.

“We found that PTTEP had fired the work­ers with­out rea­son. The com­pany did not ap­pear be­fore the coun­cil and gave no rea­sons for their de­ci­sion so we have or­dered them to re­hire the work­ers,” said Daw Lwin Lwin Myint, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the YARC.

The coun­cil’s Oc­to­ber 25 rul­ing in­structed PTTEP to re­store the 18 dis­missed work­ers to their orig­i­nal po­si­tions at full pay within seven days and to com­pen­sate them for the time they spent un­em­ployed.

PTTEP, a sub­sidiary of Thai­land’s state-owned oil and gas gi­ant PTT Pub­lic Com­pany Lim­ited, fired the 18 work­ers in Au­gust af­ter they al­legedly made com­plaints to Yan­gon Re­gion’s Depart­ment of Labour.

The com­plaints stemmed from a com­pany or­der to the work­ers that they were to un­dergo com­pe­tency eval­u­a­tions from 8am to 5pm each day with­out a de­fined end date.

“We did noth­ing wrong,” said Ko Aung Phay Myint, one of the dis­missed work­ers. “We en­quired about our labour rights legally. Now, we can’t work and can’t go abroad be­cause we are be­ing sued. The com­pany is try­ing to at­tack worker morale and sol­i­dar­ity by su­ing us for huge amounts of money. So, we de­pend on our gov­ern­ment for help.”

In what seems to be a text­book ex­am­ple of a SLAPP suit – or strate­gic law­suit against pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion – PTTEP has coun­ter­sued eight of the work­ers for US$150,000 each, al­leg­ing defama­tion and seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for the train­ing that had been pro­vided to the for­mer em­ploy­ees.

The case was re­ferred to the YARC af­ter the com­pany failed to ap­pear in front of the Mayan­gone town­ship dis­pute ar­bi­tra­tion body on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

A spokesper­son for PTTEP told The Myan­mar Times on Oc­to­ber 31 that the com­pany was aware of the YARC rul­ing and is plan­ning to appeal it to the Cen­tral Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil.

The spokesper­son de­clined to answer fur­ther ques­tions from The Myan­mar Times on the dis­pute with the 18 work­ers.

This is not the first time that PTTEP has run afoul of Myan­mar’s labour laws. In De­cem­ber 2015, ac­tion was taken against the com­pany by the Union Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion over a fail­ure to en­ter into valid em­ploy­ment con­tracts with its em­ploy­ees.

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