May 13, 2017

Lao Workers at Power Plant Resign After Raise is Denied

By:  Ounkeo Souksavanh and Richard Finney, RFA News, May 5, 2017

The Hongsa Lignite Power Company plant in Sayabouri, Laos
The Hongsa Lignite Power Company plant in Sayabouri, Laos,
is shown in an undated photo.
Photo by:  RFA.

Twenty workers at a power plant in northern Laos have quit their jobs after managers refused to raise their salaries, offering instead only to help them with the cost of their meals, sources said.

The workers, formerly employed by Ratch-Lao Service Co. Ltd.—a firm subcontracted to the Hongsa Lignite Power Company Ltd. In Sayabouri province-—had petitioned since March for an increase in their pay and benefits, one employee told RFA’s Lao Service.

“In a meeting on April 10, the management board did not agree to the employees’ proposals, so 20 of the workers decided to quit,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Even though the company affirmed that the requested raise was justified by Lao law, they said only that they could increase the subsidies for meals by an additional 50,000 kip [U.S. $6] per person each month,” he said.

The company had previously told employees that their pay and benefits—including sick leave and vacation leave—would be increased if the Hongsa Power Plant’s units 1, 2, and 3 were kept fully operational, the source said.

“But when the employees asked for their promised increase, they were turned down.”

Workers at other companies subcontracted to Hongsa have meanwhile received their requested increases in benefits and pay, he said.

Chance to withdraw

Initially, 96 of the more than 100 workers employed by Ratch-Lao’s operations and maintenance sections had signed letters threatening to quit, Bounthavy Phimmasone, human resources manager at the company, told RFA.

“After they submitted their letters, the company told them they could withdraw their requests no later than March 31 to give them a chance to reconsider,” Bounthavy said.

“They were told that after that date anyone who hadn’t withdrawn their request would be considered to have resigned.”

“As a result, some of them did withdraw their requests,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, a senior manager at Ratch-Lao said that workers’ salaries at the company—around 4 million kip (U.S. $500 approx.) per month—were already high and in line with standards provided by the law.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service and Ounkeo Souksavanh. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh.  Written in English by Richard Finney.

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