Local workers stop working for Indian company in Shwe Gas Project

Kyauk Pru: Local workers have stopped working for the Indian Punj Lloyd Company that is undertaking constructions in the Shwe Gas Project in Kyaukpru in Arakan State reportedly because the company has not paid their wages for months.

Indian Punj Lloyd is contracted by the Chinese company CNNP for constructions in Shwe Gas Project.

“Punj Lloyd is paid by the Chinese company, but it has never paid our wages regularly. It pays us for one month while keeping us in debt for two months. We are just day laborers and are now facing so many difficulties as the company has not paid our wages regularly. So, we have stop going to work”, said U Thaung Shwe, a local carpenter working for the company.

Most of the local workers are employed as day-laborers for the basic hard work in all sites of the project.

“Some workers have already stopped working while some are still working hoping to get back their monthly wages. We are also a local company here working under the contract with the Punj Lloyd. Now we are also unable to pay our monthly salary to our workers because the company has been delaying their payments to us. We are now losing face in our business because of this Indian company”, said Ko Soe Khine, a local engineer.

The Indian Punj Lloyd will pay only 10 Kyat keeping 90 Kyat in debt if they have to pay 100 Kyat. This is its usual practice and the Burmese companies working for it are now in great trouble due to the lack of its regular payments, he said.

Five Burmese companies including the KSC are said to have been working construction in the Shwe Gas Project under contract with the Punj Lloyd.

There are around 500 local workers most of whom are being employed as manual laborers for carrying materials, carpenters, masons and car drivers in the construction worksites of the company.

U Thaung Shwe said no authority department has accepted their complaints though the Indian company has been neglecting to pay their wages regularly.

“As it is a foreign company, no authority department accepts our complaints against it. The township administrator and even the district administrator cannot do anything for us. Local authorities dare not take action against those foreign companies, because the projects they are working on are the state-shared business. They ask the local workers to work for them without rest, but they do not want to pay the wages the workers should get. They are now depriving the local basic workers of their rights, but there is no one to take action against them”, he said.

Engineer Ko Soe Khine also said the Indian company Punj Lloyd is also violating some of the deals inked with the Burmese government.

“The foreign companies are entitled to employ foreigners only for the expertise positions such as engineers, officers and foremen in their worksites in the project in their agreement with the Burmese government. But the Indian Punj Lloyd Company is now bringing in Indian Bengalis from Kolakata in batch after batch for its basic work. Before there were only 19 Indian workers in the company, but now it has employed around 70 Indians”, said Ko Soe Khine.

The Indian Punj Lloyd is said to have been violating the rights of the local workers as well as its agreements with the Burmese government, but the local Burmese authorities are negligent to take action to defend the local workers’ rights and to look into the increase of foreign workers in the worksites of the project.