Around 300 daily-wage workers from Taw Win carpentry factory have been on strike for 12 days. Ten started a hunger strike on Thursday which continued for five days and left one person hospitalized. The other five victims were apparently attacked by knife-wielding locals in Wahtayar Village, where the factory is located, at around 8 pm on Saturday. Workers have accused factory bosses of inciting the clash in order to break the morale of the strikers.
The strike began on Oct. 25 after the factory owner refused demands to provide an employment contract, allow workers back into the factory and not to force them to work outside where they can only perform menial tasks and not skilled woodwork. They also asked for workplace rules to be rewritten with their consent and social welfare cards to be issued. After nearly two weeks of industrial action, there was a meeting on Saturday for negotiations but no progress was made as the employer refused to meet workers’ demands. The meeting, which involved Finance and Revenue Minister Win Shein, 88 Generation Students leaders, ten worker representatives and factory managers, failed as the employer refused their first demand, said Thida Aung, a female factory operator for 12 years. “The factory forces workers to work outside ever since they began to form a labor union to demand their rights,” said Thida Aung
The carpentry factory has been abusing labor rights for a long time, claim workers. Although some have been employed there for more than a decade, they are still daily-wage workers and receive no benefits. “The factory has never recognized us as permanent staff even though we have been working here for 12 to 18 years,” said Thida Aung. More than half of the thousand employees based at the factory are women, yet female workers earn just 2,000 kyat (US $2.30) per day while men earn 2,500-3,000 kyat ($2.90-$3.50). “The payment is the same for everyone even if skills are different,” claim workers.
“We have to go to the Sanchaung Township Court to attend trial on Nov. 6,” said Thida Aung.