Two garment factory workers who allegedly led a recent labour strike in Rangoon’s Shwepyithar Industrial Zone are facing public disturbance charges.
Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min have been appointed hearings at the Shwepyithar Township Court for arraignment at the beginning of March.
“Naing Htay Lwin has been called for a hearing on 3 March and Myo Min Min on 6 March. Both face charges under Article 505(b)*,” said Naing Lin Aung, a member of the Myanmar Trade Union Federation.
Myo Min Min, a worker at the E-Land Myanmar Garment factory, is also chairperson of the Garment Factory Workers Organisation in Shwepyithar, while Naing Htay Lwin works for the nearby Ford Glory factory. The two had been missing for several days when their colleagues and fellow strikers learned, while meeting for negotiations with Burmese government officials on Sunday. that the pair had been arrested by police and detained in Insein Prison.
The negotiations involved 15 workers’ representatives each from Costec International, Ford Glory and E-Land Myanmar Garment factories, sat opposite Labour Administration Officials.
Sunday’s meeting took place at the Shwepyithar administration office, but ended without any result.
Speaking to DVB on Monday, Khin Myo Oo, a worker from E-Land Myanmar Garment, said, “I went to the meeting with officials yesterday. They pledged to increase our daily wage from the current 400 kyat to 550 kyat (US$0.40- $0.55) – which would be from 12,000 kyat ($12) to 16,500 kyat ($16.50) in total for one month. However, they wanted to cut our full-attendance bonus from 8,000 to 5,000 kyat. So, in the end, our pay would remain the same.”
The workers have complained that they must work the regular eight hours plus three hours overtime every day from Monday to Friday, and then work four hours overtime on Sunday in order to make ends meet.
Khin Myo Oo said the workers demanded that Shwepyithar officials drop charges against Myo Min Min and Naing Htay Lwin.
On Monday morning, she said, workers from all three factories were continuing their protest in front of the E-Land Myanmar Garment factory calling for release of the two strike leaders.
“We will know what to do next only when Ko Naing Htay Lwin and Ko Myo Min Min are released,” she said. “So we are prioritising this demand and will negotiate the rest later.”
Around 2,000 workers from the three factories have been on strike for almost one month, demanding better pay and work conditions. Negotiations between the workers and their employers have repeatedly fallen through during this time. On Friday, several striking workers and police officers were injured in a scuffle when police came to disperse them.
Similar worker strikes are also taking place at another industrial zone outside Rangoon, Hlaing Tharyar.
*Burmese penal code Article 505(b): “Intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity.”