Garment factories in Yangon are scrambling to adapt to a September 21 government order for all factories to shut from September 24 to October 7 in the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

The instruction was issued at 8pm on September 20, giving us just three days to close down. But it isn’t possible for us to pay the wages of 1600 workers within three days,” said Daw Hnin Moe Hlaing, manager from a garment factory located at Industrial Zone 1 in Dagon Seikkan township.

The factory will pay its workers upon reopening on October 8 instead, Daw Hnin Moe Hlaing said. 

We will go by this no-work, no-pay system until the government issues instructions addressing the issue of workers’ pay. We will change this plan only when the government’s instruction comes out,” she said.

Other factories appear to be doing the same. Daw Khin Thandar Oo, general manager of the Myan Mu garment factory located at Shwe Lin Ban Industrial Zone in east Hlaing Thar Yar township, said, “If other factories pay their workers or the government instructs us to pay wages for the days the factory is closed, we will have to follow. We are now still waiting for  further instructions but each time we’ve asked, the government departments have so far had no answer for us.”

The Myan Mu garment factory says it will provide basic foods such as cooking oil and noodles for its 600 workers over the next two weeks and try to retain the entire workforce. But Daw Khin Thindar Oo said the financial strain is a concern for the factory. The workers are usually paid every five days.

The employer pays wages after they have received payment for orders.  They’ve told us they will not be able to pay before September 24. We will also not be able to come to the factory to before October 8 even if they might have money for us because the action will be taken against those who violet the stay-at-home order,” said Ko Maung Moe, a worker from Myan Mu.

U Thein Swe, Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population, said in a meeting with officials from the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry on September 21 that the government has planned to provide social assistance for workers who contribute monthly to the Social Security Board in accordance with the law.

Non-registered workers have also been considered so employers will need to cooperate in providing support for workers as best as they can, U Thein Swe said.  

The Cut-Make-Pack sector in Myanmar employs more than 500,000 factory workers. While those who are members of a labour union under the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) have mostly accepted the circumstances, many are worried about not being able to pay for food and dormitory fees, said general secretary Daw Phyo Sandar Soe.

So far, positive cases of COVID-19 have been detected in 16 factories which are CTUM members. Between 30 and 60 workers at each factory have been sent to quarantine centers, totaling about 2000 workers.- 



Facebook Conversations