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Burmese city hit by huge job losses amid Chinese factory closures in Dec.

About 3,000 workers were left unemployed and without full compensation following the ongoing shutdowns of Chinese garment factories in December in Pathein, Ayeyarwady region of Myanmar, according to workers on Wednesday. 

Since the first week of December, the three factories – Haubo Times, He Shan, and North Shore – have been shut down, and it’s planned that some of the remaining employees will be laid off by the end of the month, a women from Haubo Times who was laid off told RFA Burmese. 

“Hubo Times was closed this December. They [the factory officials] pay workers for four to six days of their work (in the first week of the month). After that, there are only a few workers left until Dec. 20,” said the woman, adding that some sections of the factory are still operational, but workers there were also asked to work only until the end of December. 

Labor activists close to the matter said the closure was due to the lack of power supply, difficulties in purchasing fuel for generators to run the factory, a lack of demand and raw materials shortage.

The activists noted that while the affected workers did receive compensation equivalent to three months’ salary from the factories, they have not been given overtime pay and social security benefits by their employers that are provided by the junta council’s Ministry of Labor.

An activist in Pathein township, preferring anonymity due to fear of repercussions, highlighted that the compensation process was handled unjustly, disproportionately impacting workers with longer tenures.

“Workers with longer tenures should receive more compensation based on the labor law. They expect that too. It’s demoralizing and disappointing for them when the company does not abide by this law,” the activist told RFA Burmese. 

The three garment factories as well as Aung Thein Win, the junta council spokesman for Ayeyarwady region and a regional minister for social affairs, have not responded to RFA’s inquiries as of this writing.

There were about 15 garment factories in Pathein before the military coup, but now more than half of them have been closed, a local resident told RFA Burmese. 

Pathein is not alone. The garment industry in the Yangon Industrial Zone also suffered rising raw material prices, difficulty securing the materials and extreme power outages among other issues.

As of August, there were 817 factories in the whole country that are members of Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, or MGMA, according to the association.

Among them 546 were up and running, while 271 were reportedly closed down, it said. Of these 546 operational, 311 were China-owned factories.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Taejun Kang and Elaine Chan.