Thousands to lose jobs as 13 Yangon factories shut down

About 5,000 workers are at risk of losing their jobs as 13 factories in Yangon prepare to shut down amid shortages of raw materials and high land prices, union leaders have said.

Factories making garments, bags and shoes are among those who have told the Yangon regional government they are closing.

A regional government minister announced the closures at a meeting with local entrepreneurs on March 5, said Maung Maung, president of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM).

Most of the factories shutting down are in the Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone in northwestern Yangon.

About half are Chinese-owned and the rest are run by South Korean and local investors, according to officials at the Yangon human resources ministry, who asked not to be named.

Four of the factories blamed shortages of raw materials while two said they were struggling to sell their goods abroad. The rest blamed high rental costs or simply said they were losing money, the officials said.

Myanmar’s Chambers of Commerce warned last month that factories reliant on raw materials from China were being hit by a slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Many garment factories say they hope to continue production into mid or late April, said Khine Khine Nwe, general secretary of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers’ Association

Others have already informed the government of plans to pause production until more raw materials are available, she added.

Maung Maung said some of the latter have in fact commissioned other factories to continue their operations.

Some of those closing have been hit by strikes in recent months.

Workers at Lucky Sky Bag, which shut down in late February, went on strike in late January to demand equal pay and for bosses to follow labour laws.

Unions have hinted that they suspect factories of using the shortages as an excuse to lay off troublesome workers, and have asked the government to investigate.

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