Thai oil firm ordered to rehire dismissed Myanmar workers
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.