Sacked Yadana Pipeline Workers Seek Compensation from Total

By Yen Saning 10 February 2015

RANGOON — Over 200 people in Tenasserim Division have staged a protest against Total E&P Myanmar, the local subsidiary of global oil giant Total SA, after the mass termination of Yadana gas pipeline workers at the beginning of the year.

A total of 115 skilled and manual employees working on the project for two local firms, including 104 employees of United Engineering and 11 from T&E International, were dismissed on Jan. 1. Workers and their families assembled in Kanbauk village on Tuesday to demand their reinstatement or an increase in the compensation offers already tabled by Total E&P.

Khin Zaw, head of administration and human resources at United Engineering, told The Irrawaddy that the workers were terminated after the company failed to win another contract for civil construction and logistical support with Total E&P.

In a statement released on Tuesday, workers petitioned Total E&P directly, asking to either be allowed to return to work on their previous salaries for new contractors, or allowed to collect outstanding entitlements the workers claim they are owed.

“If it’s impossible to appoint us back, it is necessary to urgently resolve the situation and agree to our demands,” the statement said.

On Friday, Total E&P agreed to provide leave benefits, annual bonuses and incentive payments for reaching health, safety and environment performance targets after a hearing by the Yebyu Township Arbitration Council, a jurisdiction established by the 2012 Settlement of Labor Disputes Law.

Workers said that the offer falls short of their expectations, and are asking for additional termination bonuses in the event that they are unable to secure employment with the new contractors. One of the protesters told The Irrawaddy that many of the employees were long-term members of the local workforce, with some of the retrenched workers employed at the Yadana site for 10-15 years.

“They said they are going to give termination compensation but we workers do not accept it,” said Nyunt Hnin, one of the protest leaders. “Our main purpose is to get our job back. If we can get gratuities for our years of service, then, we will accept termination compensation. If not, we won’t accept it.”

The workforce intends to appeal the township decision at a session of the Tenasserim Division Arbitration Council on Feb. 13, with Nyunt Hnin stating that the group will pursue a further appeal in Naypyidaw if the next hearing refuses to mandate a payment of termination compensation by Total E&P.

“We are still monitoring the situation and don’t know what to do yet,” said Khin Zaw. “We don’t know if Total will agree to the rest of the demands set out by workers.”

Workers at Total E&P’s Yadana pipeline project have been subjected to other mass terminations in recent years, according the workers’ statement. In 2009, 81 workers were dismissed without compensation, while in 2014, 69 workers were sacked and received outstanding entitlements after negotiating with the company.

The Yadana gas field and pipeline project, of which Total owns a 31.2% stake, has been plagued by controversy since it began development in 1995. A 2010 report by EarthRights International—drawn from the testimony of local residents, refugees from the area and expatriate employees—documented reports of the Burma Army engaging in extrajudicial killings, forced labor recruitment and land confiscation at the project site.

Xavier Preel, the General Manager of Total E&P Myanmar, was in Naypyidaw on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.