Burmese arbitration court gives Tai Yi workers pay increase

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FRIDAY, 02 MARCH 2012

A township labour arbitration court has ruled that striking workers at the Tai Yi footwear factory in an industrial district in Rangoon should receive a pay raise to a minimum 120 kyat (US$ 15 cents) per hour, amounting to a wage increase of about US$ 24 per month.

The workers had asked for a basic pay raise to 150 kyat (US$ 19 cents) per hour, a bonus of 8,000 kyat for workers who had no absences during the month and a better working environment. The factory owner offered 100 kyat (13 cents) per hour, which the workers rejected. The court did not make a ruling on the issue of a monthly bonus for no absences. A total of 1,800 workers went on strike on February 22.

“It’s about a 20 kyat increase per hour,” said Pho Phyu, the workers labour consultant. The leaders of the strike believed the decision was fair enough, he said.

“The leaders of the workers assume that it is appropriate and fair although they do not get the wages they demanded and deserved,” he said.

The court did not rule on the workers’ demand for a better working environment and appropriate restroom facilities. Pho Phy said, “That is not a good trend or sign. We will have to work hard for a long time to achieve those kinds of demands.”

About 1,800 striking workers reported back to the work on Wednesday. Strike leaders said they would continue to try to achieve fair compensation and working conditions at the Chinese-owned factory.

As part of Burma’s move toward democratization, the Parliament passed a workers’ right-to-strike bill in October 2011. The bill allows for the formation of unions with a minimum of 30 people, which members can join or leave of their own desire. Workers can legally go on strike and protest for workers’ rights as long as it does not block transport or security infrastructure. Unions must register with a national registrar appointed by the government, and provide the government with specific details before a strike is planned.

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