Sunday, 2 November 2014

Myanmar workers' struggles (Sept - Oct 2014)

"Myanmar police officers injured freeing hostages in factory rally," 17 Sept. 2014.

"Nine Myanmar police officers were injured as they sought to free officials held hostage by dozens of angry workers demanding wages and compensation after their factory was shuttered, authorities said on Thursday (Sep 18). More than 150 former staff descended on the Master Sport shoe facility on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday, demanding payment following the closure of the South Korean-owned factory in June... Kyaw Kyaw Tun, assistant director of the labour ministry's factories department, said five government officials arrived hoping to defuse the situation, but were promptly taken hostage by the workers. "They (workers) said they had been waiting so long and that they wouldn't let them go if they didn't get their salaries by the end of this month. But they didn't harm them," he told AFP."

"Scores injured after police ‘rescue’ official from workers," Myanmar Times, 22 Sept. 2014.

"Clashes between police and angry workers occupying a shoe factory led to nearly 60 casualties on September 16, according to eyewitnesses. The police said they were trying to free members of a government mediation team who apparently feared for their safety while negotiating with the workers.... “The workers were trying to detain the director general inside the factory compound, rejecting the implementing of compensation procedures.”
Police Major Chit Oo insisted that his officers had conducted the raid in line with international standards and training on crowd management supported by the European Union. He said workers had thrown plastic bottles of drinking water and beat the police with bamboo sticks, and the police had defended themselves with their shields. “I was hit with a wooden stick,” he said. “We did not attack the workers. Some workers might have been injured because of broken glass and iron sheets – we were wearing boots, but the workers were not. We were just trying to rescue the director general.”

"After Months, Hundreds of Garment Workers Receive Overdue Pay," 17 Oct. 2014

"Some 750 laid-off workers of the closed down South Korean Master Sports factory in Rangoon received their unpaid salaries and severance pay from the Ministry of Labor on Friday, after it auctioned off the property of the factory last week... Tens of thousands of workers are employed in labor-intensive industries at 14 industrial zones around Burma’s commercial capital. Garment and footwear factories are the biggest industrial employers, with about 100,000 workers total.

Domestic labour and industrialization updates

Updates on domestic labour and industrialization issues:

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Some stats on Myanmar migrant schools in Thailand

"Migrant workers still cheated in Thailand," Myanmar Eleven, 3 September 2014
"...A report by the Myanmar migrant workers' protection committee at the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand last year said there were 147 free schools for migrants in that country. But the number was likely to decrease by 10, due to a general lack of funding... About four million migrant workers from Myanmar work in Thailand. Half of the children of these workers are educated at these schools, which are often not totally free."

Myanmar rank-and-filers seek to oust union boss

An interesting case of rank-and-filers seeking to oust the union boss. ("Theatre workers demand resignation of national association boss," Myanmar Times, 4 September 2014.)
"About 180 theatre workers from upper Myanmar have staged a protest demanding the chair of the Myanmar Theatrical Association, Pantra U Mya Kyi, resign over recent comments in which he said the theatre industry doesn’t support scrapping section 436 of the constitution. Section 436 of the constitution gives the military a veto over constitutional change. A recent National League for Democracy petition calling for section 436 to be removed attracted nearly 5 million signatures, and a parliamentary committee is considering whether to propose a change to the section. The protest, which was held with permission from township authorities, took place in Mandalay’s Chan Aye Thar San township on August 28. “We demonstrated because we can’t accept what he said,” said U Sein Mottar, chair of the Mandalay Region Theatrical Association. “He disgraced the entire society of theatrical performers. We will keep demonstrating until he resigns.” A petition calling for Pantra U Mya Kyi’s resignation was signed by more than 1500 theatre workers from Mandalay, Sagaing and Magwe regions and Kachin, Shan and Kayar states, and then sent to Minister for Culture U Aye Myint Kyu, protest leaders said. “What he said, that the movement to amend section 436 doesn’t relate to theatrical performers, could mislead our audiences,” said U Pout Kyaing, secretary of the Mandalay Region branch of the association. Protest organisers allege that U Mya Kyi also staged a fundraiser without the agreement of regional theatre associations and personally dismissed members of township-level theatre associations. “Our Mandalay Region association didn’t know at all that the central association raised money at the Taungpyone Nat Festival in [Madaya] township,” U Pout Kyaing said. “He ought to shield theatre society if someone else is insulting our performers. But now he has even insulted us,” Ko Win Naung, a drama actor said."

Update on Thailand's post-coup migrant registration process

"Over 1m migrant workers register," Bangkok Post, 5 September 2014
"More than one million migrant workers registered with the government’s one-stop service centres as of Friday, with Cambodians accounting for more than 40% of the total. Sumeth Mahosot, director-general of Department of Employment, said 1,011,295 migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos have registered to work in Thailand. There were 443,051 people from Cambodia, of which 418,457 are workers and 24,594 dependents. Another 407,038 people hailed from Myanmar, comprising 371,726 workers and 26,662 dependents. A total of 161,206 Laotians also registered, comprising of 154,083 workers and 7,123 dependents. Registration of migrant workers became required after Thailand's military regime launched a campaign to rid the kingdom of illegal foreigner workers in July. After an initial panic that saw more than 200,000 Cambodians flee construction sites and other jobs, the government opened service centres where migrants and their employers could register and obtain 60-day temporary work permits without legal repercussions for earlier working illegally in the country. Registration remains open until Oct 31."

Why are Myanmar workers not obtaining employment-related benefits?

Why is there a gap between Myanmar workers' official benefits and what they actually obtain?  Is it really only due to a lack of awareness? ("Worker benefits increase but awareness stays low," DVB, 27 August 2014)
"The official explained during the session, which was open for questions by lawmakers, that while benefits are increasing, awareness remains low and many workers are not redeeming their full privileges."
What about those workers who employment arrangements (especially, part-time, temporary, and piece-rate work) exclude them from these benefits?

Andy Hall comments on his trial

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall comments on the charges against him ("On trial today - Thailand's food workers' rights," Ecologist, 2 September 2014):
"But I am indeed not a criminal. I am just a 34 year old British migrant rights defender and researcher working in Thailand for a decade now. During this time, I simply tried to empower and defend migrant workers, particularly from Myanmar."