By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA,
LABOUR-RIGHTS activists are pressing for better welfare and law enforcement for workers, both Thais and migrants, on the occasion of Labour Day.
Celebrated on May 1 every year, this important day gives workers and activists ample opportunities to make their voices heard.
This year, labour groups and activists are laying stronger emphasis on welfare, particularly for Thai workers’ retirement. They expressed satisfaction with available benefits for migrant workers, but called for a more efficient process for workers to exercise their rights.
Confederation of Thai Labour president Manas Kosol said yesterday that his group would underline the need to ensure greater welfare and retirement savings for Thai workers.
“For example, social security members’ right to medical services should not be reduced only because they reached retirement,” he said.
He also urged the government to heed labour groups’ demands for better retirement benefits.
Among these demands are that provident fund be made mandatory, and that the social security scheme’s old-age benefit for each retiree should be no less than Bt5,000 a month.
Thailand is now an ageing society. More than 17 per cent of the Thai population are now elderly.
Concerned parties, therefore, are paying serious attention to the need to help people prepare for their retirement.
Manas added that the government should also consider setting up a fund to help shoulder the risks of employers going out of business without offering any severance pay to employees.
Adisorn Kerdmongkol, an expert in migrant workers’ rights at the Migrant Working Group, said labour protection laws for migrant workers in Thailand had made significant progress.
“Still, we need to do more to enable migrants to efficiently exercise their rights,” he said.
According to him, migrant workers have contributed hugely to Thailand’s manufacturing and service sector.
“So, we should push for their better protection such as allowing them to set up labour unions,” Adisorn said, adding that some Thai labour leaders and many Thai employers have opposed the draft law that would allow migrant workers to set up labour unions.
Adisorn also commented that migrant workers should be allowed to claim a retirement bonus before they leave Thailand.
“Why do they have to wait till they reach their homeland to get the retirement bonus?” he asked.
Jeab, a 30-year-old Cambodian worker in Thailand, said he was happy with his work conditions and wages here.
“I am paid Bt480 a day plus free accommodation,” he said from a construction site.
Jeab said his savings were now growing and he could not ask for more from the Thai government.
Mai, another construction worker from Cambodia, was less happy as he was paid just Bt350 a day.
“I don’t have any savings at all,” Mai said.
He also said several of his subordinates received an even lower wage.
“They earn just between Bt240 and Bt250 a day,” he said.
According to the Raks Thai Foundation, migrant workers usually work in the construction, fisheries, and related industries.
Today, labour groups will organise various activities to mark Labour Day.
It will start with religious rituals, after which members of 17 labour-related groups will march from the Nang Loeng race course to the yard in front of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s headquarters.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha will attend the event to hear the workers’ demands.
Thai Labour Solidarity Committee vice president Chalee Loysoong said he hoped the government would raise the minimum daily wage further so as to ensure the wage was enough to support at least three persons.
At present, the minimum daily wage ranges between Bt308 and Bt330.
Sujin Roongsawang, who heads a group coordinating unregistered workers, said about 26 million people worked in the non-formal sector in Thailand.
The sector includes vendors, taxi motorcyclists, house maids and farmers, among others.
“We should develop mechanisms to empower and protect them,” she said.