Workers Of The World Unite!

Today workers around the world take to the streets to commemorate May Day and to show their solidarity for their hard fought rights and to continue to protest for a better world. For workers in Burma it’s an especially hard life.

Low wages, often a dangerous working environment and failure of employers to recognize international workers’ rights such as holidays and maternity leave. Add workplace bullying and intimidation of workers and the situation is grim. In September, 2015 the Burmese government put in place a minimum wage of 3,600kyat (US $2.80) for an eight-hour work day. Despite the new award Burmese workers receive about 50% less than workers in neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. In rural Burma, workers outside the major cities earn even less and struggle to feed their families.

U Hlaing Win, is an agricultural worker in Hpa-an, Karen State. U Hliang Win is paid 50,000kyat a month with accommodation and food support –a sack of rice a month. He told Karen News he would like to stay in Burma and not have to leave for another country to work.

“We want more job opportunities in Burma. It would be better for us if we have job opportunities in the country otherwise we have to migrate to other country for works. As a hard labor worker, we need to earn at least 5,000-6,000 kyat (around $4 USD) a day to make a living.”

U Hlaing Win explains that the cost of feeding a family is a huge strain for workers.

“One meal already cost us 1,500kyat and we have to eat two meals. Just for the cost of food it is already 3,000kyat a day, if we have family, it is almost impossible to make a living with what we earn.”

U Hlaing Win stressed that his employer is one of the good ones, but is realistic and understands that without organized legal support workers will continue to suffer poor conditions and low wages.

“My employer told me to let him know regarding any health issue, but I don’t bother to tell them. I try to manage on my own, but it costs me a lot. I have to spend around 10,000kyat a visit to a clinic and If I need to do that for two or three time in a month, there is nothing left. Since there is no legal paper work process when I am contracted to do the work, I also feel reluctant to claim back from my employer. As I don’t claim the cost, they also don’t give me.”

“My employer is flexible. He told me that according to standard, a worker should work 8 hours a day, but sometimes I work 6 hour or sometimes 10 hours. Sometimes when there is no job in the [market] garden, I go out and work as daily laborer.”

Most workers in Burma have limited industrial support. They are expected to work long hours for poor pay. If sick and unable to work many workers are not paid. The work is dangerous and many workers have to handle hazardous substances without protection or knowledge.

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