Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Striking Burmese workers win demands

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 13:31 Aung Myat Soe

Mizzima – More than 800 Burmese migrant workers went on strike at the V & K pineapple factory in Bankha Township in Latburi Province in Thailand on Tuesday after a supervisor hit a worker with his fist.

The supervisor, riding a motorcycle, accidentally struck a Burmese worker and then assaulted him, said striking workers.

The next day about 800 Burmese workers staged a protest, saying they could not tolerate anymore violations of their rights and physical assaults against them.

“The accident victim stared at the motorcycle driver when he was hit. And then the driver hit him with his fist. After that, an interpreter was also hit again when he asked why he hit the worker. Now they have swollen faces,’ Maung Maung, a protest leader, told Mizzima.

There were similar physical assaults against the Burmese workers in the past, said one source. ‘The workers were struck arbitrarily with sticks’, he said.

About 40 officials from the immigration office, the labour office, police and soldiers appeared at the factory about 11 a.m. along with two firefighters, and three ambulances, in addition to local officials.

The Burmese workers put forward an 8-point demand and continued their protest through the night. A relative of the factory owner, who was out of the country, met with the protestors and agreed to all their demands, according to Maung Maung.

The demands included: (1) equal work for both Thai and Burmese workers (2) settle wages systematically (3) no more physical assaults against Burmese workers by Thai nationals (4) provide a receipt when payments are made (5) give prior notice about deductions made on their wages (6) provide adequate toilets for workers (7) provide more sanitation for workers and provide transport by car or motorcycle to workers when they have to visit hospitals and clinics (8) give equal rights to piece-work workers.

‘The agreement on our demands was signed by nine representatives of the Burmese workers and the responsible officials from the factory and then copies of the agreement were kept by both sides’, Maung Maung said.

The factory provided only three toilets for all workers and one of them was out of order, workers said. The workers had to pay a fine if they spent more than 10 minutes using toilets.

Out of a total of 1,000 workers in the food processing factory, 800 workers are Burmese nationals.

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