Steel Workers Go on Hunger Strike

Workers at the Hi Mo High Art wig factory, where 1,950 workers have been on strike since May 9 (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Around 25 workers at a Chinese-owned steel factory in Rangoon Division announced on Friday that they will begin a hunger strike in response to the company’s refusal to raise wages.

The workers are among a group of 400 who have been on strike at the Yangon Crown Steel Factory in Hmawbi, Rangoon Division, since May 20. The factory is located in the Myantakar Industrial Zone.

“Twenty-five striking workers announced at 9 o’clock this morning that they will go on a hunger strike,” said Zaw Htet, a technician who has worked at the factory for two years. “The rest of us will continue our strike as before,” he added.

According to the workers, no negotiations have been held with the company’s management since the walkout began nearly a week ago. The workers said that students and labor activists have been giving them food since the strike began.

The workers earn a basic wage of 160 kyat (less than US $0.20) a day. Monthly incomes, including overtime pay and various allowances, range from 4,500 to 10,000 kyat ($5.35 to $12), which the workers want increased to 40,000 kyat ($48) a month.

Meanwhile, strikes at factories in Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone continue weeks after workers first walked off the job.

“Today, workers at nine factories continued their strikes,” U Htay, a lawyer who is acting a legal consultant to the striking workers, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

He added that a total of more than 7,000 workers from these factories are on strike.

One problem facing the workers is a shortage of food, which is normally supplied by employers to supplement wages that in many cases are not enough to meet basic needs.

“Even though we haven’t eaten since yesterday morning, we will not end our strike,” said Thida Htun, a worker at the Hi Mo High Art wig factory, where 1,950 workers have been on strike since May 9.

Workers at the factory allege that Korean managers at the factory were abusive to their Burmese staff, in some cases physically assaulting female workers.

Although the factory’s management and workers reached an agreement to end the strike earlier this month after labor officials became involved in negotiations, the company’s owners have since refused to pay the agreed-to wage increase.

Workers at the factory say that in addition to a lack of food, they haven’t had water or electricity in their dormitories since yesterday.

“Today the workers are tired and hungry, but we have some food that was donated to us,” said Thidar Htun.


4 Responses to Steel Workers Go on Hunger Strike

  1. Army was abusing for 60 years,now labor force is showing its power, dealing with burmese labors will be nothing but a pain in the butt.

  2. Message to KNU, SSA (S), Anug San Suu Kyi

    Burma surely dose not need more of slave labour camps.

    Why are you all encouraging the multinationals to come in and treat OUR people as slaves on subsistence wages and abuse and unsafe conditions?

    Not that, unlike China and Thai, we are hungry as we are.

    If all work together to get rid of the military, thieves and the support of half a million Sit-tut which is simply killing the citizens, we are RICH AS WE ARE still keeping our peaceful and lovely traditions.

    Please stop bringing in the outsiders to rape and torture us more.

    Please concentrate on getting rid of Than Shwe and his dogs and the front man Thein Sein.

    Work for the people.

    Don’t sell the people out while smiling at them. Please.

  3. A basic wage of 160 kyat (less than US $0.20) a day is absolutely ridiculous when the cheapest thing you pick up at the market costs K100, so workers face Hobson’s choice to do overtime, weekends etc. just to make a living wage; many can’t even afford a bus fare and have to walk miles to work starting at the crack of dawn and getting home only when it’s pitch dark with no electricity in their humble homes. Ruthless exploitation directly by as well as in collusion with the state will be an understatement.

    All the injustice and iniquitous exploitation by the state and Big Business will create a gigantic backlash when the little people get organized and fight back.

    A powerful tsunami is coming into being from the convergence of all these currents of popular struggle – the candlelight protests, pipeline protests, farmers, workers and students, and with their united effort it will crash into a thousand pieces the ancien regime once and for all.

    Everyone, let’s win the army over to the people’s side for the final battle.

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

    • Once the sneaky buying out of the farm land is getting steam, there wil be landless farmers who become labourers who will be at the mercy of the factory owners who WILL have FULL protection and cooperation of the government and police and in Burma , Swan Arr Shin but the workers WILL go hungry along with their family unless they submit to the cruel, but irresistible exploitation as there will be no land they can work on and produce and feel like human themselves ever again.

      Much touted GDP increase around the world is simply by the capitalists squeezing all the living energy out of the human and resource extractions.

      This much anticipated opening up business is not meant to benefit any human in the country at all. Only the balu’s.

      The sooner people realize that the more opportunity they have to decide what sort of life they want to lead.

      When people are not wise, the balu gets the power. But the real power is ALWAYS with the people until they actively give it up.

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