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Striking Myanmar factory workers seek to double overtime pay

February 19, 2015

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — About 4,000 workers are striking at clothing factories outside Yangon, demanding that their overtime pay of 17 cents an hour be doubled.

The workers at plants in two industrial zones vow to camp outside their factories unless employers meet their demand, claiming they cannot live on pay amounting to 80,000 kyats ($80) a month as the cost of living rises.

The workers gathered outside the Chinese-owned footwear factory Tai Yee and the Korean-owned Costec, some shouting, other singing pro-democracy songs and chanting in rhythm as dozens of police officers watched.

Negotiations between factory owners, labor union representatives, employees and government officials are at a standstill, with the authorities threatening a crackdown if the workers don’t give up their protest.

Myanmar is counting on low-cost labor to grow export-oriented industry to fuel economic growth. After a nominally civilian, elected government took power in 2011, it started instituting economic reforms, including the legalization of labor unions. Before the reforms, repressive rule by a military regime had caused Western nations to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar, crippling attempts to expand exports.

The expansion of the sector has been matched by an increase in strikes among the country’s estimated 200,000 garment factory workers.

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