Around 250 local staff from the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd staged a rally demanding pay raises on Wednesday in front of the company’s office in Sagaing Division’s Monywa district.
The Chinese firm, which operates the controversial Latpadaung copper mine in a joint-venture with Burma’s military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, has hired local villagers, many of whom gave up their farmlands for the project, under a job creation programme recommended by the Latpadaung Investigation Commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The local workers, who work in a variety of manual positions for Wanbao, demonstrated on 10 and 11 April with official permission from authorities. No arrests or signs of disturbance were reported.
The workers claim they are paid around US$110 per month – less than half the salaries of Wanbao’s Chinese staff and Burmese staff who have been recruited from other parts of the country.
Protest leader Phyo Yu Htay said their demand for a pay increase had not been heeded by Wanbao officials during previous rallies.
“We set off to march to the Myanmar Wanbao office around 9am in the morning, to reiterate our demands for better pay and corporate transparency,” he told DVB.
Another local staffer, a university graduate, said they were asking for US$240, which is still less than the salaries paid to non-local staff.
“We are not being unfair by demanding for $240 per a month – we deserve the wage,” said the worker.
“Other staff at the same level earn that amount – with overtime, some can make around $400 a month. We would like to enjoy the same salary.”
The Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited was unavailable for comment.
The area has seen several rounds of protest over the copper mining project, several of which turned violent and resulted in an investigation led by Suu Kyi. While the investigation concluded that the project was fit to continue, locals have maintained opposition to the development on the grounds that they are losing their lands and suffering mistreatment at the hands of project operators.