Although workers at a garment factory in Mingaladon township in Yangon said they were able to win concessions after protesting working conditions last week, the crackdown by employers is also said to have worsened.
Some 2,000 JW factory employees went striking on July 7, reporting exploitation regarding their pay and hours. The site is owned by Great Glowing Investment and operated by another factory: ADK, or “A Dream of Kind”. They are both run by the same Canadian nationals, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Business Administration.
A 25-year-old factory worker who took part in the recent strike said some of the changes agreed through negotiations had not been implemented and that over the past week restrictions had eased. intensified.
“Their promises are only on paper and they are not fulfilling their end of contract,” she told Myanmar Now. “The rules have become stricter and they separate us if they see four or five of us gathering in one place.”
One of the workers’ complaints was the punitive pay system, where wages were locked in for not meeting what they described as unrealistic employer expectations, but no bonuses were ever awarded for contributions or positive performance.
The company reportedly agreed to provide a 15,000 kyat ($8) reward to these employees, but the 25-year-old worker said only half of the sum had been distributed. Those who received it were photographed and made to sign a receipt stating that they had accepted the 7,500 kyats.
“They rudely reprimanded the workers who wouldn’t sign the receipt. They were basically forcing them to sign them,” she explained, adding, “It makes [the company] look really bad.
Employers agreed to allow workers, who typically work 12-hour shifts starting at 7 a.m. six days a week, to log off at 4 p.m. on Saturdays and close the factory on Sundays.
However, other demands, such as resolving insufficient wages and unrealistic clothing production quotas, reportedly went unresolved during negotiations.
Another woman who works at the factory said supervisors pay special attention to workers considered politically active and told a meeting that strikes remain illegal under the current administration.
Workers have also been banned from interacting with others outside the rows of their designated workstation, in what employees say is an effort to prevent them from staging another strike.
“They are trying to prevent us from striking. They even told us to report it to department heads if someone invited us to participate in a protest,” she told Myanmar Now.
Myanmar Now attempted to contact the owner of JW’s operator, ADK Factory, for comment, but calls went unanswered.
The factories would make clothes for international sportswear brands, including Crivit, and employ nearly 7,000 people in total.
According to the International Labor Organization, widespread factory closures following the February 2021 coup contributed to the loss of jobs for some 1.6 million workers across the country.
Factory workers in Yangon were among the first members of the public to protest the coup. Some 16 labor organizations were subsequently banned by the junta, and union members and leaders charged with incitement.