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Protesting Workers Demand K4000 wage

By Nyan Lynn Aung  •  July 13, 2015

Protestors in Burma demand higher wagesOver 200 workers from 15 different factories at the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone demonstrated yesterday in favour of a K4000 minimum wage, up K400 from the government-backed amount already rejected by factory owners as too expensive.

The National Committee on the Minimum Wage – which includes ministries, employers and labour organisations – proposed last month to set the daily standard at K3600 (US$3.20), a figure which provoked the predictable string of criticism from both factory workers and bosses. Union leaders pressed for a higher amount, while employers complained the figure would shutter their business and undermine the industry.

Yesterday, the deadline to lodge objections to the proposed minimum wage, factory workers queued into lines at 7am for a government-approved march against the proposed minimum wage. Some held signs and shouted slogans in favour of the K4000 (US$3.50) minimum.

“I have already sent my objection to the National Committee,” Ko Aung Aung, a demonstrator from YES candy factory told The Myanmar Times. He said his current earnings, K45,000 per month plus a bedroom and daily meal provided by the factory, are not enough to cover his basic expenditures such as transportation, a cell phone and clothes.

While the workers were permitted by the township administration to protest, they were told they could not use two banners brought along: “Do not recognize K3600 as the minimum wage” and “the campaign [for K4000] must be achieved”.

“I have no idea why the administration denied us those banners,” said U They, a lawyer and leader of the All Myanmar Workers Union Network, adding that their point was made without the prohibited signs.

Demonstrator Ma Su Lat Mon, a worker from Shwe Swan Yay Penan factory said K4000 was still insufficient recompense for long factory hours, but the amount would at least meet the basic living costs of the workers.

“It is just barely sufficient to fix the minimum wage at K4000. I did not say that the minimum wage is a decent living wage, it will merely cover our expenses,” she said.

Ma Su Lat Mon makes K85,000 per month as a skilled labourer working 8am to 10pm every day, but said she rarely receives her full paycheque as her employer “always has many reasons” for reducing her pay.

“I have no one to look after in my family. But the salary I receive does not even cover myself. So how could it be enough for other workers who have to look after a family?” she said.

Ma Thin Thin Swe, a member of the All Myanmar Workers Union Network, said the minimum wage must take into account extra benefits currently being provided but will likely be struck when the factories are forced to pay higher wages.

“When the owners accept a minimum wage as the government is proposing they are planning to cut off other extra costs like transportation for the worker. So if the workers are going to be able to afford to survive the minimum wage must be fixed at K4000,” she said.

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This post is in: People's Voices

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