Myanmar engineers taking part in training in China before working on a pipeline project have expressed frustration over what they say are unfair differences in pay between Myanmar and Chinese workers.
The 58 trainees are attending a three-month course on pipeline operation at the Southwest Petroleum University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
Upon completion they will work on the Myanmar-China pipeline project, which will see oil and gas pipelines link Rakhine State with Yunnan Province.
During a media trip to Chengdu between October 31 and November 4 arranged by the Friendship Association for Myanmar-China Pipeline, the workers told The Myanmar Times they were unhappy at the higher pay that Chinese trainees at the university will receive when they begin working on the same project.
The friendship association, a public relations vehicle for the project’s backers, says the different salaries are because the Chinese workers are employed directly by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), while the Myanmar workers are employed by its subsidiaries, South-East Asia Gas Pipeline Company Limited (SEAGP) and South-East Asia Crude Oil Pipeline Company Limited (SEAOP).
But the Myanmar trainees say they were not made aware they were working for subsidiaries of CNPC until they attended a welcoming ceremony for a language training program conducted in Yangon.
“Only at the orientation ceremony we found out we are not working for CNPC but for SEAOP/GP. We applied for the job to CNPC,” one trainee said. “CNPC is the sixth-biggest energy company in the world. So we believe that there would be better job opportunities for us if we work for the company directly.”
The Myanmar workers say the Chinese trainees are receiving wages almost three times higher during the training period and five times higher after they start work.
The association declined to discuss exact pay details, saying they were confidential.
“We met the Chinese trainees [at Chengdu] and spoke with some of them. They are also training to work on the same Myanmar-China pipeline for the operator position but with different salary. They said they are getting 3000 yuan (US$480) while we have just about 1100 RMB ($176) and the company has told them that they will get $1500 when they start working,” one trainee said.
The workers have been told they will be able to discuss the problems with a CNPC official on November 12.
“We will decide what we will do after meeting with that official,” a trainee said. “Now we are one. If one of us decides to quit this job, all will do the same.”