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Six former employees of Myanma Haymarn Co Ltd have called for justice amid speculations that they were sacked for their involvement in a labour union. However Myanma Haymarn refutes the claim and says the six workers were dismissed on Tuesday for “financial reasons”.
The South Korean-owned company provides artwork and drawings for comic books published abroad. The six staff members are all executive members of the Comic Artists Union.
One of the sacked employees, Aung Lwin, is also chairman and founder of the interim Federation of Labour Unions.
Last year Myanma Haymarn encountered a series of union-led disputes with its employees, who demanded revised working hours and better pay.
The six employees held a press conference on Wednesday in Rangoon, home to the company’s headquarters, during which they called for justice.
“The financial reason they provided was not solid enough for the dismissal – we founded the Comic Artists Union in 2012 and have been calling for greater labour rights with 12 demands to fix basic working hours and salary issues, 11 of which were met after a negotiation mediated by the Township Labour Administration, and the company has held a grudge against us ever since,” said Aung Lwin.
“Now they are purging all of us.”
Sacked artist Kyaw Zeya said he is looking for a mutually beneficial end to the dispute. “I wish for the issue to be mediated in a way that workers will not be subjected to excessive work, while ensuring fairness for the employers – a fair and just decision in accordance with the law,” he said.
Labour Unions have enjoyed greater freedom in Burma since the Labour Organisation Bill was passed in 2012, replacing the 1962 Trade Unions Act that effectively banned trade unions across Burma. Since 2012, strikes and labour protests have become much more common.
However labour activists in Burma still walk a delicate path. The right to protest has not stopped police from breaking up protests and arresting activists.
Myanma Haymarn employs around 80 comic artists and illustrators.