02/16/2012, 00.00
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Yangon, company grants wage increase to striking workers

Employees of the, Chinese-owned, Tai Yi shoe company after days of strike succeed in getting a wage increase from 75 to 100 kyat per hour (approximately 11 cents). No change to bonuses for those working 12 hours a day for 26 days a month. Strike sparked over non-payment of vacation days for the Lunar New Year.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - A small wage increase, which represents a great achievement in a country where - until last year - organizations and trade unions to protect workers were banned. After a week of strikes over low wages, bargaining and poor environmental conditions, the workers of the Chinese-owned shoe company Tai Yi in Yangon, have obtained an wage increase from 75 to 100 kyat per hour (the equivalent of 11 cents). However, some people are still not satisfied with the results of the negotiations because the demands "were not entirely satisfied", in particular, the dissatisfaction revolves around the monthly bonus for employees - reserved for those who do not miss even one of the 26 days of a monthly work - which remains at 6 thousand kyats (about 7.5 U.S. dollars).

The shoe company workers protest (pictured) started on 6 February and saw about 2 thousand workers downing tools. At the root of discontent, the managements failure to pay the five days of "vacation" for the Lunar New Year, celebrated in China and other Asian nations on January 23. The mood generated a real strike, which went on to include the conditions of factory work and exhausting shifts: 12 hours a day, six days a week for a daily wage of 70 cents (about 200 dollars per year).

A worker told the Burmese newspaper The Irrawaddy that the company has placed an additional monthly allocation of about 11 thousand kyat for the salaries. A second, 12 years in the shoe factory, said that "tomorrow we will resume normal work activities." The agreement came the day after the second meeting between top management and 53 employees, representing all the factory staff. Unlike the first, the second face to face encounter was not attended by Burmese government officials.

Last year the President Thein Sein promulgated a labour law rule which repealed the draconian Trade Unions Act of 1962 - the year when the first military dictatorship in Burma came to power, prohibiting the formation of trade unions. Now Burmese workers have the right to strike, with a notice of three days in the private sector and 14 in the public. For the ILO (International Labour Organization) it was "a huge step forward for the country."

It is not clear whether the workers of Tai Yi in Yangon have complied with the standard, but their strike has marked an important step in protecting the rights of workers.


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