Authorities Threaten Violence at Rangoon Strike

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TUESDAY, 09 FEBRUARY 2010

Around 2000 textile factory workers in Rangoon started striking on Monday evening, demanding a pay increase and reduced working hours.

Eye-witnesses said the situation is still tense with more than 30 riot police trucks and several fire engines stationed inside the factory zone.

The strike started in the Mya Fashion garment factory in No. 3 Factory Zone of Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Township. The workers are demanding an increase in salary of 10,000 kyat (US$ 10), a reduction of working hours and the provision of a clean space for meals. Workers from nearby factories have reportedly joined the strike.

Blocked by riot police trucks, fire engines and police custody vans, striking workers have been prevented from leaving the factory zone and no one has been allowed to enter, sources in Rangoon said.

According to the latest reports, members of Union Solidarity and Development Association, a junta-backed organization have also arrived at the scene, and the strike continues. The workers have been warned to disperse peacefully or face a violent crackdown.

The workers have to work from 7 am to 11 pm daily. In December, nearly 1,000 textile workers in Hlaing Tharyar staged a demonstration. Government officials were involved in negotiations with the workers over their demands, though it remains unclear as to how the issue was resolved.

The monthly income of most factory workers in Burma ranges from 20,000 kyat [$20] to 40,000 kyat [$40], forcing many to work overtime. Many factory owners employ temporary workers who have no legal recourse if they are fired without compensation, according to former factory workers in Rangoon.

More than 80 percent of factory workers in Rangoon work on a day-to-day basis. Most are young women between 15 and 27 years of age who come from the countryside in search of a better living.

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