Day Laborers Face Exploitation at Shwe Gas Construction Sites in Arakan

Kyauk Pru: Day laborers at Shwe Gas construction sites across Arakan State are facing exploitation of their daily wages by some contractors at the sites, said local worker sources.

Local day laborers in Madae Island

A number of local villagers are now working as day laborers at several Shwe Gas construction sites in Kyauk Pru Township, the heard of the Shwe Gas project in Arakan, where construction contractors have been taking advantage of the local day laborers on their daily wages.

“I am the boss of our carpenter group working at a construction site in Gon Shin Village. Our group was hired by U Kyaw Soe, a contractor, on the promise of 4,500 kyat per day for each worker, but after three days working at the site, a supervisor told us that he is only able to pay 3,000 kyat for a worker per day due to the low skill of the work. When we refused his offer, we were fired from the job,” said U Shwe Moe.

U Shwe Moe is a senior carpenter who led the 15-member carpenter group that was working at the construction site belonging to Myanmar Golden Crown in Gon Shin Village in Kyauk Pru Township from 15 to 17 March, 2012.

“We had left from the construction site without any compensation for our three days of work. U Kyaw Kyaw Soe had not refunded our tip money of 6,000 kyat per worker that we had to give to him illegally to get the job opportunity. However, they finally gave us our wages for three days and the 6,000 kyat after we told him we’d report the incident to exiled media and other concerned authorities,” said U Shwe Moe.

U Shwe Moe said that the major companies like CNPC and MGC are likely to give the full wages for day laborers in accordance with current rates, but some construction contractors and so-called worker supervisors have misappropriated the wages for the workers.

Such exploitation of day laborers is not only happening in Gon Shin but also other sites across Kyauk Pru Township, said U Kyaw Nu, a community leader from Madae Island where a big project including an oil tanker and deep sea port is being constructed by a Chinese company.

He said, “On Madae Island where there are three villages – Wra Ma, Pin Village, and Kyauk Tan with 700 households and over 2,000 people,” adding that most of the villagers are facing such exploitation by contractors at work sites.

“A villager is hired at a rate of 6,000 kyat per day at first, but in reality the villager is given only 2,000 kyat per day. If the villagers oppose and complain against [the contractor] about the wages, the villagers are fired from their jobs. The villagers in our area have to work for such wages even though they are cutting a lot of money from their pay because they have no other job opportunities,” U Kyaw Nu said.

Many villagers on the island have given up their traditional jobs like fishing and farming since the Shwe Gas project started in the area. “Many farm lands and orchard lands on the island were confiscated by authorities for the project and the fishing sectors on the island were also damaged by the construction of sea ports and a harbor for big cargo ships for the project,” said U Kyaw Nu.

According to local sources, most of the villagers who are working at the Shwe Gas construction sites as day laborers are illiterate and have poor knowledge about the rights of workers. Because of this the contractors and supervisors at the construction sites have been exploiting the workers for their own gain.