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Over 100 workers from the Myanmar Veneer & Plywood Private Ltd (MVPPL) company on Friday began marching from Sagaing Division to the national capital Naypyidaw in a protest against what they called the company’s unlawful dismissal of fellow employees.
The workers after staging a sit-in protest at their worksite in Sagaing’s Padamya Industrial Zone for more than 60 days decided to start marching to Naypyidaw on 29 April as regional government officials were unable to help mediate in their dispute with the employers, said Khine Min, a protest leader.
“As concerned government officials didn’t manage a single time to resolve our issues, and due to various livelihood struggles and health problems among our women and children [at the sit-in camp], we decided to begin marching to Naypyidaw, where we plan to set up a rally camp in front of the President’s Office,” said Khine Min.
“We are calling for rule of law, a tripartite dialogue between the workers, employer and the government and denouncing the cronies who do not respect the law.”
The marching workers were briefly stopped by local police and authorities at the entrance of the Sagaing Bridge but were later let through. By Friday afternoon, they had arrived in the neighbouring town of Myitnge.
Workers from the MVPPL, owned by an Indian national, said they were subjected to 12 hours of work a day without overtime pay. In October of last year, they began a protest demanding labour rights, including overtime payment, annual salary increases, better wages for skilled labourers, bonuses, and expenses for their living and transportation.
The company after negotiations with the workers and labour officials agreed to give in to the demands in February of this year but did not deliver, prompting a resumption of the walkout. In response, the company at the end of the month sacked over 160 employees who joined the protest, provoking more anger, and the sit-in protest.