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H&M Factory in Myanmar Shutters After Workers Strike

Workers protesting in Myanmar have forced one factory to shutter.

Hangzhou Hundred Tex garment factory in Yangon said it’s ceasing operations following a turbulent workers’ protest. The Chinese-owned facility temporarily closed to conduct repairs, after workers damaged equipment during a strike held on Feb. 23, Myanmar Times reported. According to factory management, the factory will open again after repairs are finished and an agreement is reached with workers.

In January, union leader Ko Thet Paing Oo was dismissed after returning from a two-week sick leave. Despite possessing a medical certificate, the factory management fired him for not having a pre-approved absence. Angered by the treatment of their colleague, some workers started striking on Jan. 31, and demanded better pay and working conditions from the factory.

According to IndustriALL Union, a global group that represents over 50 million workers in the manufacturing sector, workers at the Hangzhou Hundred Tex garment factory have been paid less than the country’s daily minimum wage rate of $2.70 and didn’t receive overtime payment as required by federal law.

Despite management and the union forming an agreement in December 2016, Hundred Tex Garment still didn’t form a workplace coordination committee, which escalated the conflict between the two parties.

Hundred Tex Factory currently produces apparel for Swedish fashion chain, H&M. IndustriALL and the retailer signed a global framework agreement in 2015, which protected the labor rights of H&M’s global supply chain workers. H&M and the union allegedly made several attempts to resolve the payment issue with the factory owner, but no progress has been made. H&M said its operations at the factory will be on hold until industrial relations improve.

On the same day as the strike, the Chinese embassy in Yangon urged the Myanmar government to protect Chinese businesses and take legal actions against the workers that attacked the factory. Workers were then ordered to move out of the factory by the Yangon government the following day, to avoid further conflict.

Following the strike and closure, the Yangon Region Arbitration Council demanded the factory reinstate a workers union president, which caused approximately 500 factory workers to call off their weeks-long strike.

Although workers will be compensated during the closure, it is unclear when the factory will resume operations again.