Yangon: Over 200 workers set up barricades around factory

 Some of the striking workers are seen at DJY Knitting Myanmar Ltd. sock factory. Zaw Zaw Htwe/The Myanmar Times
Some of the striking workers are seen at DJY Knitting Myanmar Ltd. sock factory.
5 Sept 2017 – Over 200 protesters from DJY Knitting Myanmar Co. Ltd sock factory, stepped up in their strike by building barricades around the factory on September 4, as their demands were denied again.

“The factory officials violated the law. They fired us without proper reasons. Now we’re also forced to break the law. We resorted to blockade in search of a better outcome,” worker leader Ko Phyoe Ko Ko Aung told The Myanmar Times on September 4.

The dispute was mediated by the Hlaing Tharyar township arbitration group in the morning of September 4, and has been passed on to the Yangon regional arbitration council due to a lack of settlement.

Strikers said that they will maintain the barricade until they get positive results. Workers asked the factory officials to re-hire them at their former positions or to compensate for the loss of jobs, in accordance with the labour law.

“The factory denied both rehiring and compensating. We have no other choice than to build barricades. It can last more than two months if we go with the routes of arbitration councils system and strikers have problems with their daily expenses,” said Ko Pyoe Ko Ko Aung.

Factory officials told The Myanmar Times on September 4 that they were blocked in the factory by the protesters. They have informed the respective officials of Myanmar, as well as the Chinese Embassy, to solve the dispute.

“They are acting against the law. What they are doing is illegal. We will solve this issue legally with the respective officials. We don’t talk with [the strikers] anymore,” said a factory official. He added that the factory will not compensate nor re-hire the strikers who were fired last month. Workers who want to join the factory again can apply as new recruits; they will not get their former jobs.

“Today, the worker’s demands were completely denied. The factory blocked every possible route for conciliation. We don’t encourage the barricades as it is illegal, but we also don’t object to their strike,” said Ko Aung Soe Min, labour supporting officer from the worker organisation We Generation. We Generation has been helping to solve the dispute between the workers and DJY sock factory.

Over 228 of the sock factory’s workers have been protesting since August 7, demanding the rehiring of their worker leader Ko Soe Thura Ko, and the creation of an independent labour union.

All strikers were sacked by the factory on August 22 because they failed to return to work by the deadline set by management.

The DJY Knitting Myanmar Co. Ltd, opened the sock factory in Haling Tharyar two years ago and has been producing various kinds of socks, including famous brands for export, according to a factory official.

There were about 400 workers in the factory, over 200 of which are currently on strike. Meanwhile over 100 of the workers are still working at the factory.

On September 1, protesters also marched to the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone, demanding their rights.

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Thailand: Cannery Row Strike Wins Pay Promise for Workers

26 Feb – A strike of more than 1,100 workers at a canned food factory southwest of Bangkok in Samut Sakhon province ended today with company executives agreeing to pay overtime and wages allegedly withheld from workers.

The strike, which began Thursday and mostly involved workers from Myanmar, was a rare victory in a country where migrant workers routinely suffer discrimination and harsh working conditions with little or no leverage.

Continue reading “Thailand: Cannery Row Strike Wins Pay Promise for Workers”

Cambodia: Mass arrest at Bavet garment protest

Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage.Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage.

20 Dec – A large group of striking garment workers has been arrested in the Svay Rieng province town of Bavet, officials and rights groups confirmed, during a day of protests that has seen water cannons used to disperse crowds.

Ros Tharith, provincial administration director, said authorities intercepted a “small number” of workers this morning who were supposedly carrying rocks that they were going to use to pelt a factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone.

“They wanted to incite other workers to come out,” he said.

“Our authorities did not crack down; we just took action to prevent them from using violence and arrested them, and we will wait to see how they explain themselves.”

But while there is no official tally of the number of those arrested yet, Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, estimated that more than 30 male and female workers were arrested.

“The men were tied down with ropes and hand-cuffed … It is not a good picture.”

Photos uploaded to local media and Facebook showed police dispersing strikers with water cannons.

Chea Oddom, provincial representative of the Cambodian Union for the Movement of Workers, said three trucks were loaded with arrested workers this morning. He estimated that some 8,000 workers were on strike today, down from a reported 30,000 last week.

The strikes began last Wednesday after workers demanded a $20 raise to the current minimum wage of $128, $8 more than the $140 figure mandated by the government in early October. Violence was soon reported after factories were pelted by stones and had their doors broken down.

Four garment workers were already arrested on Friday and charged with damages, violence and incitement on Sunday.

Brisbane: high school teachers plan stop-work over students’ rights

Mojgan Shamsalipoor

16 Nov – Brisbane teachers will take industrial action on a human rights issue for the first time, continuing their campaign in protest against the Government’s detention of an asylum-seeker high school student.

Mojgan Shamsalipoor, 21, was months away from graduating at Yeronga State High School when she was forcibly removed from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre in August and taken to a Darwin detention centre after a failed visa application.

Teachers at the school will hold a stop work meeting at 1:40pm on Tuesday as part of an ongoing campaign regarding the fight for the rights of Ms Shamsalipoor and other students on bridging visas, or no visas.

Students also will refuse to go to class, holding a sit-in to coincide with the industrial action, according to the school’s Queensland Teachers Union representative Jessica Walker.

Ms Walker said it would be the first time industrial action would be taken in relation to a human rights issue.

“We have grave concerns for Mojgan’s emotional wellbeing, and that of other students who are experiencing increased distress and a sense of hopelessness,” she said.

Ms Shamsalipoor fears returning to Iran, having arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 after fleeing sexual abuse and an arranged marriage to a man in his 60s.

Her asylum claim was rejected last year after she had lived in Australia for two years on a bridging visa.

Cambodia: Situation ripe for more strikes

2 Oct – Short-sightedness, weak adherence to the law and poor working conditions in Cambodia’s garment sector are creating a fertile field for strikes to prevail over negotiations, a recent study released by the Arbitration Council Foundation, an independent labour mediator, has found.

According to the study, incidents of striking have considerably increased in the disputes the council mediated, going from 17 in 2012 to 94 in 2014. While compensation issues were by far the most common demands in strike cases the council oversaw – making up 37 per cent of all cases during a one-year period from April 2014 to 2015 – it was far from the only factor enabling the proliferation of strike action.

Because many employers offer only the most minimal protections required by the law, strikes are not used as a last resort but as a negotiation tactic, the study says, beginning on an “ad hoc basis rather than as part of a campaign to achieve broad based CBAs [collective bargaining agreements]”.

CBAs, or governing contracts drawn up between unions and employers, are seen as smoothing industrial relations by avoiding the use of strikes while setting up clear standards for workers.

But a range of issues hamper the effective implementation of CBAs in Cambodia, according to the report, such as the lack of a separate labour court to handle cases involving a wide number of demands.

“An inability to promulgate various claims at one time and achieve a longstanding resolution in the form of a CBA provides many more ad hoc opportunities for strikes to occur,” the report reads.

Employers’ tendency to reimburse striking workers’ salaries has also led to a system in which strike pay is used as a consolation prize, often awarded in lieu of strikers’ more “substantive demands”, the report says.

Meanwhile, the industry’s attempt to co-opt the labour movement through the use of pro-employer, or “yellow”, unions has had the side effect of proliferating minority unions as workers become frustrated and disenchanted with yellow representation.

William Conklin, country director of the US-based Solidarity Center, said that Cambodian workers’ overreliance on strikes exists largely because other measures lead nowhere.

“The avenues are very limited for unions,” he said. “Ideally, strikes wouldn’t be used, but you also want to get towards employers [providing] a decent working situation.”

Conklin added that effective CBAs were largely absent due to the little respect employers paid to minimum labour standards, leading to confrontation rather than negotiation as the chief conduit of action.

“You can’t have dialogue when [only] union members are being terminated,” he said.

However, Ken Loo, secretary general for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that establishing CBAs was difficult due to minority unions disrupting the CBA process merely to “get benefits out of the situation”.

Loo added that unions themselves did not respect the Labour Law when they went on strike, ignoring rules such as providing prior notice.

“All their strikes are illegal, they don’t comply with procedures,” he said.

Melbourne: Strike at Woolworth’s liquor warehouse

Workers picket the entrance to a Woolworths liquor distribution centre at Laverton.

17 August – Report from Anarchist Affinity members who were supporting the MLDC (Melbourne Liquor Distribution Centre) strike last week.

Workers at Woolworths MLDC launched unprotected (unlawful) strike action in the early hours of Monday morning last week. Workers were responding to broken promises by management; Woolworths management had announced the week before that all new hires at the Laverton site would be through a labour-hire agency despite promises to the contrary made in EBA negotiations less than a year earlier.

The MLDC strike was called for, planned and hastily executed by rank and file union militants at MLDC. The decision to strike occurred to the genuine surprise of NUW union organisers and officials (the NUW is the workers’ union), and this decision was taken by a workforce who had never previously been on strike together.

The MLDC sits at a critical juncture in Woolworth’s supply chain. The strike shut-down liquor and cigarette supplies to Woolworths, BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores across Victoria.

On day four of the strike, industrial action occurred at two other Woolworth’s distribution centres in Hume and Barnawatha. The Hume DC afternoon shift joined the strike and the Barnawatha DC imposed an overtime ban whilst planning to join the strike.

This strike action continued despite the threat of fines and dismissal. It continued in defiance of an order by the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday. When ordered back to work, strikers at MLDC burnt copies of the FWC order and announced they would not return to work until Woolworths agreed “no labour hire and no repercussions [for striking]”.

The power that these workers held in their hands was palpable.

Continue reading “Melbourne: Strike at Woolworth’s liquor warehouse”

Zine: Sydney Uni on strike

Communiques from the Campus: March – June 2013

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This zine was put together to provide a comprehensive account of the strike through the voices of those who participated in it. It is intended to provide a counter narrative to not only the lies of the university administration, police and corporate media, but also to the claims of union bureaucrats and political sects who seek to control, limit and claim ownership of the struggle. Continue reading “Zine: Sydney Uni on strike”