By MIN LWIN
More than 200 Burmese migrant workers have been laid off by a knitwear factory in the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.
The Hyatt Knitwear factory said it had laid the workers off because of a slump in orders resulting from the global economic slowdown. But the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA) in Mae Sot said it believed the workers had lost their jobs because they had been pushing for better pay and working conditions.
One worker, Kyaw Lwin, who has worked at the factory for more than eight years, said the layoffs had been announced without warning on April 3. He complained that no termination compensation was being paid and alleged that the factory management was withholding the migrants’ work permits.
Another worker, Thiha Win, said the sacked migrants would use legal means to obtain compensation under Thai labor law.
The YCOWA charged that the laid off workers had been put on a black list, preventing them from obtaining work elsewhere in Mae Sot. They also felt threatened by the Hyatt Knitwear factory management.
There are about two million legal and illegal Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Many are employed in Mae Sot’s 200 garment factories, in agriculture, on construction sites, in shops or as domestic help in private homes.
It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of Mae Sot’s garment factories pay their Burmese workers less than Thailand’s minimum daily wage of 151 baht (US $4.30). Agricultural and domestic workers fare even worse and earn as little as 80 baht ($2.30) a day.