Striking garment workers in Myanmar have agreed to go back to work after IndustriALL affiliate IWFM helped mediate a solution which resulted in a nearly 30 per cent pay increase.
At the beginning of April, 590 out of the almost 700 workers at a garment factory in the town of Yayni, Myanmar, went on strike. Demanding a pay raise, workers also claimed to have lost several of their rights when the factory was privatized and production changed from paper and household goods to clothing.
Organizers from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) assisted the striking workers. They were told of conditions in the factory, with one toilet for 690 workers, how they lack access to pure drinking water, and that workers do not enjoy benefits that they are entitled to by law.
The striking workers made a number of demands including no to forced overtime, double overtime rate on Sundays and national holidays, increased break time to 20 minutes, as well as a salary increase from 30000 Kyats (US$30) per month to 60000 Kyats (US$60).
After negotiations all demands apart from the pay raise were met. After first only agreeing to an increase of a few dollars, the employer and the workers settled on a new monthly salary of 41,000 Kyats (US$41).
As Myanmar is moving on from a dictatorship where trade unions were illegal, there is a huge need for capacity building and training. Representatives from IWFM explained about privatization, the process for collective bargaining, and how to build strong unions.
Workers at the factory have agreed to form and register a union, and membership is expected to be 500.
IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina, who visited Myanmar in March, says:
The struggle of the garment workers in Yayni illustrates the challenges workers are facing in Myanmar. Visiting the country recently, I was so impressed by the passion of these young people who have only recently won the right to be protected by a union. We will see many more fights like this, as the workers demand decent working conditions and living wages which are still so far ahead.