May 17th 2010:

I was in his office to seek his legal opinion on our stand-off with our employees at our plant in southern Myanmar. He was our local legal counsel, so to speak.

Counsel’s view was crystal clear. They are your employees and you have some obligations on them.  You cannot simply terminate their contract and pass it over to another Company. I argued on the basis that my Company  has no contractual obligation whatsover, for one simple reason — they have no contract of employment with us.  Yes they worked with us and we paid them daily salary, but that’s it. No other benefits for them. They are not our permanent staff. My argument went down in the drain in front of the old man but spoke well in English, but rather slowly. He reached for old law books from his lower drawer. It was very hot in his Yangon downtown office — mid 40C.

“Still valid you see. This Act was passed in 1923. Workmen Compensation Act 1923. This one defines the workman.”

I browsed thru the yellowish stained pages, written in Burmese, but some pages got English translation.

“This clause (m) says contract of employment not necessarily signed . It can come in form of expressed or implied, oral or writing.”

I nodded my head in agreement. Facts were presented in front of my very eyes.  I am the man of facts and how can I deny these facts. I looked down at the busy Pansodan Road and words of my boss in the HQ kept coming back to me : BE EXTRA CAREFUL IN TERMINATING LOCAL STAFF. YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO THER FRIENDS ARE AT THE TOP.