Our comrades at the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) informed us that hundreds of workers at the garment factory Sun Apparel Myanmar Co. Ltd, which is located in industrial zone 5 in Hlaingthayar township in Yangon, went on strike on June 6th. The factory is operating with a workforce of more than 400. According to data collected by the local union since January 2022, Sun Apparel is a regular supplier to the brand JAKO sports clothing based in Germany.
One of their main demands is an increase of the basic daily wage from 4,800 MMK (approx. 2.09€) to 6,000 MMK (approx. 2.61€) per day. According to the minimum wage law, the minimum wage should be reviewed every two years. The last review took place in 2018. The increase in wages is vital due to the significant inscreases in prices for basic commodities. Not increasing wages since 2018 is like cutting your wages each month!
Another main demand is an increase of the attendance bonus from 20,000 MMK (approx. 8.70€) to 40,000 MMK per month. This bonus was reduced to 10 000 MMK during the Covid pandemic.
In addition to these two main demands, there are several other issues on the agenda related to serious violations of legal labour rights.
- Factory management calls for meetings during the workers’ lunch break.
- Although there is no clause prohibiting to bring your mobile phone to the workplace, they are confiscated during work hours and not even stored properly, so that in some cases they are returned damaged.
- For those workers who can’t or don’t want to work overtime after an eight-hour work day, the factory does not arrange return ferries to their homes. Furthermore the management refuses to pay the piece rate fees for the completed pieces during these eight hours.
- The factory owners don’t provide a proper dining place for lunch breaks and therefore workers must eat at the car parking space.
- The drinking water that the factory owners provide to the local workers is unclean and the drinking water tank is located just 3 feet away from the toilets for the female workers. In contrast, the factory provides commercial clean drinking water bottles to the foreign staff at the workplace.
Two leading labour activists of the factory union were arrested in the following days, in an attempt to crush the strike. They are now held in custody by the military – location unknown.
The factory union at Sun Apparel is part of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM). You can support them by contributing to this fundraising ending August 31st, 2023.
In the past few years the ICL Working Group Asia established a close partnership with FGWM. A federation consisting of 40 individual factory and public sector unions and which keeps resisting the military dictatorship.
In coordination with the FGWM the ICL Working Group Asia reached out to JAKO. JAKO had a talk with two members of the working group on June 21st and agreed to connect with FGWM directly. As a result of the strike JAKO confirmed that the daily wage was increased to 5 600 MMK and the attendance bonuses to 20 000 MMK. Furthermore JAKO emphasized that they will try to get the two labour union activists released as soon as possible. But this is not the end. Proper talks between FGWM and JAKO are still to take place in the following days.
Also available in: