Hundreds of Burmese builders turning a former British colonial railway station into a luxury hotel protested against unpaid wages yesterday (Jan 19).
The construction workers had been developing the former Burma Railways headquarters in the capital Yangon, then known as Rangoon. It will become an upmarket hotel, office and apartment complex.
However, the staff downed tools amid anger over low pay and alleged ‘exploitation’ and took to the streets to block one of the city’s main roads, Bogyoke Aung San, during midday traffic.
Heated arguments between workers and site authorities ensued for a few hours. The gathering also allegedly violated measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 spread.
Furious workers – who receive the equivalent of five to eight dollars a day – demanded that a week’s wages being held back by the construction company was released and fines were cancelled. Bosses eventually agreed to meet the demands and pay the wages on January 26.
Grand Railways is a colonial building and was the former headquarter of Burma Railway department under British rule. Myanmar, then known as Burma, was governed by Britain from 1824 to 1948.
In recent years, the whole compound was leased to a group jointly formed by Mitsubishi Corporation, Yoma Strategic Holdings and The International Finance Corporation for redevelopment into a multi-complex with a hotel, office tower, shopping mall and residential apartments. The construction work is sub-contracted to BYMA (Bouygues Construction) company.
The number of Covid-19 infections is still relatively high in Myanmar and new cases clocked above 500 daily and Yangon is the epicentre with nearly 70 per cent of total cases.