Thursday, November 1, 2018
Many thanks to Aaron Halegua for sending word of this labor dispute in Myanmar. As many of you know, I visited Myanmar last month to meet with labor leaders. This article describes the prototypical labor strike in Myanmar. The vast majority of strikes occur because an employer fires workers who are (or who the employer believes are) trying to organize workers. Laws protecting workers from retaliation for union activity are weak, and employers feel free to fire such workers with impunity. Often the employer is a Chinese company, which is significant because in theory community-based mediation is available, and managers at a Chinese company aren't concerned about their standing in the local community. The tension escalates until the workers use the only tool available to them -- a strike -- which often results in bloodshed.
Here's an excerpt from the article, originally in the Irrawaddy, picked up by Reuters:
Dozens of striking workers from a Chinese-owned garment factory in Myanmar marched to a government compound in Yangon on Monday, securing a late-night meeting with the city’s chief minister, as part of efforts to get sacked colleagues reinstated.
Staff from Fu Yuen Ltd factory, on the outskirts of the commercial capital of Yangon, have been demonstrating alongside other labor activists since August, after 30 members of a trade union were fired.
This month, dozens of Fu Yuen workers were injured when iron-wielding assailants attacked a crowd gathered outside the factory. Police said a fight had broken out after protesters urged employees still working to join them.
Myanmar’s textile industry is its top export earner after oil and gas, employing more than 450,000 people and generating more than $2 billion in exports last year.