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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Uber drivers strike in Indonesia

Mass meeting of striking Uber drivers in Jakarta (image via PPAS Jakarta)

23 Aug 2017 – Hundreds of Uber drivers have been on strike in Indonesia in a dispute over what they describe as “modern slavery” practices by the firm.

Around 200 drivers rallied in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Sunday. There were solidarity actions in other cities including Bogor and Surabaya, while drivers far from the management offices turned off their apps in solidarity.

Following on from two protests in May, Sunday’s stop-work protests were the third day of actions in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The drivers have organised themselves into the KUMAN drivers collective, which has received support in building their organisation from the anarcho-syndicalist PPAS, as well as legal advice from LBH Jakarta.

The drivers believe they face the same main grievances that have led to protest action in cities from New York to Melbourne and in Lagos: Uber unilaterally determining basic pay rates and the lack of clarity of the drivers’ employment status.

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West Papua: Former workers at U.S.-owned mine injured in clash with police

19 Aug 2017 – Hundreds of former workers of Freeport Indonesia clashed with security forces near the company’s mines in the eastern province of Papua on Saturday and three workers were injured, company and union officials said.

The Indonesian unit of U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoran Inc. has been embroiled in a labor dispute since May, when around 5,000 workers went on strike to protest against mass layoffs.

Following export restrictions related to a permit dispute, Freeport furloughed some 3,000 workers in Indonesia earlier this year, which prompted a strike and high levels of absenteeism.

Freeport later deemed that approximately 3,000 full-time and 1,000 contract employees who were absent had “voluntarily resigned”.

Police on Saturday fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd of ex-workers who were demanding their jobs back, blocking roads and setting trucks on fire.

Union official Tri Puspital said police then fired into the crowd, injuring three people. Papua’s police chief Boy Rafli Amar declined to comment.

A spokesman for the company said the protests have not had an impact on operations, although employee access to worksites was being affected.

“Some of our employee convoys have been canceled and we will not be scheduling further convoys until the situation is conducive again. We have urged our workers to avoid this area until further notice,” said Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama.

Cambodia: Factory boss calls scuffle ‘murder attempt’

3 March – A boss at a garment factory in Kampong Chhnang province has accused the husband and a friend of a recently fired employee of chasing down her car and trying to kill her.

Thhey Kunthea, administrative chief of the Chinese-owned Horizon Outdoor garment factory, filed an attempted murder complaint at the provincial police station on Monday night against dismissed employee Som Chreum’s husband, Phon Vanna, 35, and friend Khem Chhoun, 47, according to provincial police chief Srey Sitha. Both are being held at provincial court.

Vanna and Chhoun had pursued Kunthea’s car on a motorbike until it became stuck in a traffic jam and then blocked its path, Sitha said.

“The men opened the door and took the administrative chief out of the car. So there was a physical argument,” he said. “Thhey Kunthea got injured on her arm and left-hand side.”

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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.

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Cambodia: Workers block SEZ over back wages

22 Jan – Unpaid workers from the shuttered, Turkish-owned Weibo garment factory blocked the entrance to the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone again yesterday after the heavily indebted firm failed to pay their full salaries this week.

The factory, part of the Istanbul-based Weibo Group, ceased all operations on January 9, the day before December salaries were to be paid. Following protests, Weibo promised to pay the salaries in two equal instalments.

While the first instalment was successfully paid, Weibo failed to pay the second one on Wednesday, prompting about 80 workers to gather at the zone’s entrance yesterday morning, blocking traffic into the facility.

“We are demanding full pay now,” said Prak Sreynich, a 19-year-old garment worker who worked at Weibo for three years and said she was owed roughly $100 by the firm.

The workers, who also claimed to be owed severance pay, may have to keep waiting, however.

Irsat Kanca, the managing director of Weibo Cambodia, said Weibo missed its second instalment because of a lawsuit from a former supplier temporarily blocking the firm from selling off its machinery.

“We have debts of $580,000 to suppliers and $270,000 to the workers,” Kanca said in Weibo’s deserted headquarters.

While Kanca claimed that workers’ severance pay had already been doled out over the past three months, he vowed that their salaries would eventually be paid in full.

“The process will take a maximum two weeks [from now].”

Cambodia: Violent protests boil over in Bavet

Police take cover behind riot shields as garment factory workers throw rocks at them during a protest that turned violent in Bavet yesterday morning.Police take cover behind riot shields as garment factory workers throw rocks at them during a protest that turned violent in Bavet yesterday morning.

23 Dec – Ongoing protests by striking garment workers in the Svay Rieng province town of Bavet spiralled into “anarchy” yesterday after protesters pelted police with rocks, aggravating an already volatile situation and spurring national authorities to begin mediation efforts.

Two military police were injured in the encounter, which took place in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, according to Ros Tharith, provincial administration director.

“It became anarchy,” he said.

Police said no arrests were made.

According to Rex Lee, manager of the Manhattan SEZ, some 5,000 protesters gathered in the zone yesterday morning as part of an ongoing strike action that has rocked several SEZs in Bavet.

The incidents began at about 8:15am and lasted about an hour and a half. Workers threw rocks at factories and pelted police who had gathered to block them, while police once again utilised hoses from fire trucks to disperse them.

“They threw a rock at my head and my helmet broke and it went through,” military police officer Kaet Cheavon, 31, said as he sat on his hospital bed yesterday.

Cheavon said the protestors essentially “chased” the outnumbered police around the SEZ as there were “too many to arrest”. None of the injuries to police were critical.

The violence is the latest in a string of incidents that have rocked the SEZs since last Wednesday, when 30,000 workers at the Tai Seng and Manhattan SEZs walked out on the job.

The workers are not satisfied with next year’s raise in the minimum wage, demanding a $20 raise from the current rate of $128, $8 more than the $140 rate for 2016 set in October.

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