Myanmar Faces Workers Strike, Price Gouging as Coronavirus Fears Mount

Workers throughout Southeast Asia are feeling the financial ache from the unfold of the extremely contagious coronavirus, as enterprise dries up and factories shut their doorways, placing folks out of labor within the face of minimal welfare security nets of their growing economies.

More than 20,000 employees have misplaced their jobs in Myanmar after scores of factories closed down amid shortages of uncooked supplies. Now some employees are asking manufacturing unit house owners to non permanent shutter operations as a safety measure.

On Friday, practically 1,500 garment employees from 4 factories within the Dagon Seikkan Township Industrial Zone within the Yangon area staged an indication to demand that house owners briefly shut down the vegetation throughout the pandemic and provides them paid depart, labor union leaders stated.

Zar Zar Tun, a labor union chief on the Blue Diamond purse manufacturing unit, the place the demonstration started within the morning, informed RFA’s Myanmar Service that employees worry that would turn out to be contaminated with the virus in the event that they persevering with working, whereas lockdown restrictions are in place in different areas to forestall the pathogen’s unfold.

“We are now demanding to negotiate with the boss,” she stated. “We are appealing to him to shut down the factory for the entire month of April and pay wages and salaries for this month. We are protesting to demand our rights that are guaranteed by law. We are being denied these rights,” he stated.

“We just started the protests this morning and workers in at least four factories are participating,” Zar Zar Tun added. “We are worried for our health because of viral outbreak, but since most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, we need our salaries.”

RFA couldn’t attain Blue Diamond’s supervisor for remark.

Zar Zar Tun stated she and different labor union leaders would negotiate with the house owners of the vegetation, however that employees will proceed demonstrating within the meantime.

Standing with them

Thet Htar Swe, a frontrunner from the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, informed RFA that her group will help the roughly 1,500 employees from the 4 factories in getting their calls for met.

“Their demands are to temporarily shut down all four factories during April while paying wages and salaries to workers for the whole month and give them other rights guaranteed by law,” she stated. “Our federation stands with the protesting workers and will help them succeed in securing their rights.”

Workers from the Bluebird Enterprise backpack manufacturing unit, the Rainhouse Myanmar raincoat manufacturing unit, and Mayshar Myanmar glove manufacturing unit are additionally collaborating within the rallies.

The house owners of the glove manufacturing unit have already informed employees that they don’t need to briefly shut down operations and would solely pay employees for official holidays if they should shutter the plant, Thet Htar Swe stated.

On March 25, the President’s Office issued a directive ordering half of Union-level, state, and regional authorities workforces to remain residence to scale back the danger of spreading the coronavirus, however informed staff to be ready to report for responsibility if wanted.

The order doesn’t cowl nongovernmental employees or medical personnel in authorities hospitals.

The Union authorities and state and regional governments have created COVID-19 prevention working teams.

As of Friday, Myanmar’s well being ministry reported 20 confirmed circumstances of the coronavirus, additionally recognized as COVID-19, and one dying.

‘Impossible to control’

Despite government-ordered 14-day quarantines for Myanmar and international nationals who’re returning to the nation and people suspected of COVID-19 infections, well being volunteers in higher Myanmar — the central and northern components of the nation — have reported a number of circumstances of individuals evading the isolation requirement and different regional restrictions.

One man in a quarantine facility within the central Myanmar metropolis of Mandalay obtained a six-month jail sentence for leaving the shelter to purchase some drinks after which appearing hostilely in direction of authorities when confronted.

“He should not have left the shelter, said Aung Soe Oo, a volunteer in the city working to limit the spread of the virus. “That man should be held to account for what he did, so that others will follow orders and rules.”

A resident of Mogok township in Mandalay’s Pyin Oo Lwin district agreed.

“I like the six-month sentence for people who don’t follow the order,” he stated. “People ignore the volunteers’ advice in Mogok.”

“If authorities don’t protect the volunteers, there will no volunteers if the situation becomes worse,” he added.

On Friday, the Yangon authorities urged folks to remain residence throughout the Thingyan Buddhist New Year celebrations later this month to forestall the unfold of the virus. Other areas have adopted swimsuit, telling folks to shelter in place.

“We are unhappy about issuing a regional order, but it will get worse if we don’t do it,” stated lawmaker Zaw Htet from Pale township in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing area.

“It is impossible to control [COVID-19] in all the regions and states to fight this pandemic with self-monitoring,” he added. “It will be easier to control through regional orders.”

The central authorities has additionally banned public gatherings till the tip of April and threatened jail time for individuals who fail to report suspected COVID-19 circumstances.

A man wearing a face mask sits on a chair set apart from others as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus at a Yangon-Mandalay highway restaurant in central Myanmar's Bago region, April 3, 2020.

A person sporting a face masks sits on a chair set aside from others as a safety measure towards the unfold of the coronavirus at a Yangon-Mandalay freeway restaurant in central Myanmar’s Bago area, April 3, 2020.
Credit: AFP

Price gouging

Government officers in the meantime have additionally threatened to take authorized motion towards those that overcharge Myanmar shoppers for hand sanitizers, face masks, and different important items.

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) says it’s going to study costs of medical provides, prescription drugs, and foodstuffs to ensure distributors usually are not participating in worth gouging throughout the prevention, containment and remedy of COVID-19, state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Those who’re discovered responsible of worth gouging might be charged below Section 5 of the Essential Supplies and Services Law, which carries a six-month to three-year jail time period and as much as 500,000 kyats (U.S. $353) in fines.

“We will scrutinize them on whether they comply with the law or not,” DCA director Swe Tint Kyuu was quoted as saying.

Khine Thazin Aung, who runs a web-based store stated some wholesale distributors have elevated the value of protecting face masks from 50 kyats (four U.S. cents) a bit to 1,000 Kyats (70 cents).

“I now purchase face masks at a wholesale price of over 400 kyats and sell them at 500 kyats each,” he informed RFA.

“The sellers name whatever price they want,” he added. “There is no effective control on the prices, [and] I don’t think the government is able to effectively control them.”

Prices for medical face masks, hand cleaning soap, and sanitizers skyrocketed after Myanmar introduced the primary two confirmed COVID-19 circumstances on March 23, resulting in some shortages of the provides.

“The government will intervene at some point,” stated DCA director Swe Tint Kyu. “We also have to consider the consequences of possible commodity shortages if we take measures on price controls.”

So far, the DCA has obtained two complaints about worth gouging, however decided that they weren’t sturdy sufficient to press expenses.

Maung Maung, secretary of Myanmar Consumer’s Union, stated the legal guidelines towards worth gouging haven’t been efficient.

“We have seen very efficient actions like giving jail sentences or financial fines for worth gougers in different international locations. They have very efficient digital techniques to trace commodities manufacturing, distribution, and storage. We don’t have such techniques.”

“That’s why we will not be able to take strong action [against price gougers],” he added. “We know there are legal guidelines towards worth gouging, however they aren’t efficient below the given circumstances.”

Effect on transportation

Public transportation providers in Yangon have suffered throughout the coronavirus outbreak as many drivers have misplaced their jobs below the federal government order for half of the general public sector workforce to remain at residence.

“Because we don’t have regular income from the business, we can’t pay our staff,” stated Tayoat Lay, managing director of Power Eleven Bus Company Ltd.

“We also have daily expenses, and we didn’t have enough money to pay for those,” he added. “This is why most individual bus lines have stopped operating and company bus lines are still trying to stay in business.”

Thaung Nyut from the Ngwe Sin Oo passenger pace boat group that operates alongside the Chindwin River, the biggest tributary of the nation’s essential river, the Irrawaddy, stated some vessels stopped working on account of a drop in passenger numbers.

“We stop running our speedboats because of the virus problem,” he stated. “Fewer passengers travel these days. That’s why we have sent a letter to authorities, informing them that we are going to stop our business.”

Some nationwide railway trains have additionally stopped working amid a lower in passengers.

“We’ve got two trains running now for each three we previously had,” stated Nyo Oo, normal supervisor of Myanmar Railways, saying the operator reduce practice Nos. 25 and 26 between the capital Naypyidaw and Mandalay, as nicely as the Mandalay-Monywa and Mandalay-Kawlin trains.

“We have stopped a total of eight trains and reduced routes to Lashio [in northern Shan state] from Mandalay,” he added.

Reported by Thant Zin Oo, Khaymani Win, Waiyan Moe Myint, and Phyu Phyu Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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