Thai / English

Unions appeal to embassies over abuse

Some foreign firms 'taking revenge' against workers in wake of wage hike

14 Mar 13
The Nation

The Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) is today leading 650 representatives from four labour unions to rally outside the Australian, US and Netherlands embassies against alleged abuse of Thai workers by employers from those countries.

They will call for government assistance and later join others protesting against General Motors (Thailand) while camping out in front of Government House, TLSC chairman Chalee Loysung told a press conference at the Thai Labour Museum yesterday.

At least 40,000 workers have been treated unfairly after the Bt300 minimum daily wage was made countrywide in January, he said.

Some companies outright refuse to pay the new rate, some increase working hours to nine without overtime, some reduce benefits and some close factories and lay off workers, he said. The TLSC has been flooded with 2,158 complaints from affected workers since the wage increase, he said.

The four unions were from General Motors (Thailand) Co and General Motor Powers (Thailand) Co, NXP Manufacturing, Linfox Transport (Thailand) and Electrolux Thailand.

The labour union for the General Motors units had requested annual benefits but it was not only turned down but also faced a counter-request to change the workweek to six days instead of five. Employees would have to work more for the same pay and their breaks would also be shortened, Chalee said.

The NXP Manufacturing labour union was hit with a change in employment of five workdays per week. Their hours were increased to 12 hours per day, from 7am-7pm, with the addition of four OT hours, he said.

The labour union at Linfox Transport had gone on strike to demand benefits, weekly days off, 13 annual holidays and payment for working on holidays, but the company did not respond and laid off 50 workers involved in the strike, he said.

The Electrolux union had asked the company to increase the pay of existing employees beyond the Bt300 minimum, grant an opportunity for subcontractor workers with over six months' working experience with the firm to take the exam for permanent positions, and give a pay raise and annual bonus. But this resulted in 129 workers including union members losing their jobs, Chalee said.

"The Bt300 wage is a good policy but the employers take revenge on workers by changing working conditions unfairly as well as laying off people, so this policy is killing workers. From the four firms' labour unions, we estimate tens of thousands are affected [including workers' families], but that could go up to 40,000 workers and families affected if we take into account other related companies in these business fields," he said.

The TLSC's previous attempts to seek support from the Labour Ministry could not help much because the talks were inconclusive and workers were at disadvantage, while the law seemed to favour investors over workers, he said.

Besides the calls for help at the three embassies, the TLSC and the four unions will soon submit a letter to Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap asking him to invoke Article 35 of the Labour Protection Act, Chalee said. This gives the minister the authority to make companies reinstate dismissed workers and find solutions to employer-employee disputes.