The other side of working in a food stall

July 19, 2011

WCRP:

“I work this job because I am poor, not because I enjoy it or have a choice in the matter” said Yu Yu Khaing (alias).

Yu Yu Khaing is 19 years old and she lives in Zin Kyait village, Mon State. She is Burmese and there are three siblings in her family. Yu Yu Khaing works in a food stall since it was originally built. She earns a basic salary of 15,000 Kyat per month working in the food stall. For extra income Yu Yu Khaing sells soft drinks as a waitress and earns another 100,000 Kyat per month on top of her basic income. Yu Yu Khaing spends 150, 000 Kyat to support and feed her family every month and the remaining spending money is between 20-30,000 Kyat.

“I work very long hours from 9am until 12-1am every day. I have more free time during the day at work than at night time I am kept busy with many customers then. As a waitress I welcome the customers in the night time as well as the daytime too. Although the daytime isn’t very busy I don’t dare take a break or rest from work because I’m afraid my boss, A Ba, will give out to me”.

“I do have times when I am not busy working but I never relax or rest properly” said Yu Yu Khaing. “We work a lot at our job and sometimes we have to do things we don’t like or agree with. I have to accept it if I get six customers or two customers in one night” said Yu Yu Khaing. “Everything depends on how much you can sell the soft drinks for. The more soft drinks you sell the more money you make. When a customer comes into the shop, it is his choice which waitress he calls to serve him” said Yu Yu Khaing. “Whenever a customer calls you, you don’t have a choice, you must go to serve them. Sometimes when I’m sleeping, I get disturbed by customers when a waitress/waiter doesn’t show up and I then have to work to cover that person and welcome in the customers instead” said Yu Yu Khaing. “You can sleep with the customers if you want to get paid for it when you are working in the food stall, you can make 5,000 Kyat for one person and you don’t have to go home with them. If you spend the whole night with the customer you can get paid 20,000 Kyat”.

“At the beginning I never thought I would do such a job and only stick to being a waitress. After I agreed to work here I felt like I had given my promise to stay and do whatever work was necessary. Money is the biggest factor in making my decision to do this job” Said Yu Yu Khaing.

There are ten women and four men working in the food stall. The women are paid the same salary but the men get paid a higher salary. One man gets paid 150,000 Kyat, two men working get paid 100,000 Kyat and the third gets paid under 10,000 Kyat. As for the men, they have to rely solely on their basic salary and have no other avenues for making extra income, as well as doing the very physical work. Most of the people employed here are Burmese or more specifically, Chin.

“If you need to make money, there is always the option of sleeping with men but it depends on your personal situation. I don’t want to have to do this job, my family doesn’t know about it and if they found out they would not allow me to continue doing it, however I still need to work this job to earn enough money” Said Yu Yu Khaing.

The front of the stall isn’t well advertised and doesn’t have a huge sign but it has the name written in small letters “Thee Da food stall” and it is located in Mawlamyine, Mon State.The food stall is owned by A Ba and his son. A Ba is over sixty years old. He pays a lot of money to a Major of the local Burmese Army and in return the Major provides him with security and safety in order for his business to operate. “A Ba’s son is in partnership with the Major in certain businesses, acting as wholesalers for different items” said one waiter.

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