1,700 Factory Workers Strike in Burma

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Some 1,700 workers at a shoe factory in Rangoon have been on strike demanding better pay conditions since Tuesday, according to the factory workers.

Workers are involved in a sit-in at the Taiyi shoe factory in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, about 11 km from downtown Rangoon. One told The Irrawaddy that they were demanding better salaries and overtime pay, and that their demands have not been met to date.

Workers in Rangoon's Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone stage a sit-in in Feb. 2010. (Source: www.niknayman-niknayman.co.cc)
“We want to demand our rights peacefully,” said one of the factory workers. He said that the recent price hike in general commodities and transportation costs have pressured him and his fellow workers to demand better pay. “We can no longer survive on our current income. We are compelled to do this.”

The worker said that anti-riot police trucks have been stationed near the factory though this news cannot be independently verified.

Employees at Burmese factories generally earn an average monthly wage of US $30-50 while their counterparts in Cambodia and Vietnamese earn at least $120 a month.

The Taiyi shoe factory is one of at least 20 factories on the outskirts of Rangoon where industrial unrest broke out early last year. The disputes were resolved after the owners agreed to a monthly raise of 5,000 kyat ($5).

Last month, the International Labor Organization (ILO) renewed a memorandum of understanding with the Burmese government regarding procedures for lodging complaints against forced labor cases and child soldier conscription.

The ILO's executive director, Kari Tapiola, said last year that one of Burma's most fundamental issues was the complete absence of a legally functioning workers' organization.

Labor activists are hoping to form a labor union when Burma has a new government in the coming months. However, several factory workers have said that any future union will be formed of only the factory owners and government officials from the Labor Ministry, and would, therefore, not be representative of their needs.

By Linn Thant
Source: http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=20913