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Strike action reinstates union leaders in Myanmar

10 January, 2019A two-week strike by garment workers at the Chinese-owned Cixing Knitting Factory in Myanmar has ended after the company agreed to reinstate seven sacked union leaders. 

Around 350 workers from 15 other factories joined the strike in solidarity earlier this week after the company reneged on an agreement to rehire the seven union officials.  

Around 100 members of IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate in Myanmar, the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), walked out on 24 December 2018 in protest at the dismissals. 

The factory, which employs around 300 workers and opened in 2017, is located in the Hlaing Tharyar Township on the outskirts of Yangon. 

At a meeting mediated by the township’s labour arbitration committee on 2 January, the factory management agreed to the union’s 17 demands, including the reinstatement of the union officials. 

However, the factory dismissed the seven union leaders again on Monday 7 January, leading to solidarity action by other factories in the area, led by the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM). 

At second meeting the labour arbitration committee on 8 January, factory officials promised to rehire the seven workers. 

“There are many factories in Myanmar violating laws and signed agreements. But unfair dismissal cases targeting union leaders and workers demanding better rights and working conditions, are increasing day by day,” said Khaing Zar, IWFM president.

“Laws in Myanmar are weak in protecting workers and union leaders. That's why, we, IWFM decided to take collective action at the Cixing Knitting factory. IWFM calls on investors and employers to respect the country’s laws, as well as workers' rights and trade union rights. IWFM will take immediate action whenever we see unfair dismissal cases targeted at union leaders in the future.”

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL’s director for textile and garment, said: 

“We congratulate our affiliate the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar on standing strong and holding out for union rights at Cixing Knitting Factory. The solidarity support from hundreds of other factory workers in the area shows the power in collective action. Trade unions are making a real difference to workers’ lives in Myanmar.”