San Pya dockworkers accuse officials of defrauding benevolent fund

By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Dockworkers in Kyimyindaing have called for an investigation into alleged graft at the San Pya Fish Market, after accusing officials of ripping off a workers’ benevolent fund.

Established in 2009, the fund was mandated to pay for weddings, funerals, hospital bills and other major outlays for the market’s 500 dockworkers. Each was levied 160 kyats per workday to contribute to the fund.

Dockworker representatives were told earlier this year the fund’s balance stood at 13.1 million kyats, below an earlier figure of just under 16 million kyats. Workers said they learned that 900,000 kyats, a third of the missing funds, had been transferred into department coffers.

“This fund cannot be used for the expenses of the department, because it is collected by our blood and sweat,” dockworker spokesman U Soe Htun told reporters at a Thursday press conference in Yangon.

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After requesting an audit from the Yangon government, the workers were told by the regional Labour Ministry that another 2.8 million kyats would be paid into the fund to cover the shortfall. Yet the move has raised suspicions that a higher sum could have been taken from the fund over the years.

“There would have to be a greater amount of money taken that we don’t know about,” said U Kyaw Than, another dockworker representative.

The workers have met with regional Labour Minister U Zaw Aye Maung but have yet to have their concerns addressed, they said.

Meanwhile, workers used Thursday’s press conference to complain about longstanding work practices at the market.

Daw Myo Myo Aye, program director at the Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar labour group, said that dockworkers were commonly fined for work absences and making simple mistakes, such as forgetting to bring their employment registration cards to the workplace.

“I feel they are neglected without the protection of the government and they have no rights,” she said. “They are lower than everyone else.

The dockworkers are fined 35,000 kyats for missing at least 45 non-consecutive work days from the start of their employment, including for days taken off for illness.

“There are a lot of fines for us, but for the officials doing the corruption, they just pay the money,” U Soe Htun said.

“That is not what we want. We want justice through the law”.

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