Around 2,000 workers from across southern Myanmar marched in Yangon’s Hlaingthayar Township to demand a new daily wage of K5,600 (US$4.11), saying the current minimum wage of K3,600 ($2.64) has not kept up with rising commodity prices.
The march was organized by the Myanmar Labour Union Network and included workers from industrial zones in Pathein, Bago, Thanlyin, and Yangon.
Myanmar Labour Union Network member Hla Hla told Eleven that workers have been demanding a minimum wage of K5,600 since 2013 – well before it was set to just K3,600 in September 2015. She said the current minimum wage is not enough to cover workers’ costs of living.
She also said the labor ministry has failed to review the current minimum wage, which it is required by law to do every two years before updating the minimum wage accordingly.
Other protesters said Myanmar’s low minimum wage has pushed many of the country’s best workers abroad, sapping its human resources. Thailand, for example, has a minimum daily wage of 305 baht ($9.18).
In addition to higher wages, the workers also demanded social housing, the abolition of the rule that requires on labor unions to seek approval from employers, and harsher penalties for employers who violate the rulings of arbitration councils. Employers often opt to pay fines rather than follow arbitration councils’ orders to rehire workers following labor disputes.