By PHUWIT LIMVIPHUWAT
The MWRN is a non-profit organisation (NGO) based in Myanmar and Thailand, working with both the private and public sectors to promote migrant workers’ rights.
Companies are currently required by law to set up a workers’ welfare committee comprising at least five workers elected by their colleagues, if the number of employees exceeds 50.
The committee’s purpose is to convey workers’ concerns to executives of the company. The committee is also required to hold a hearing on workers' concerns at least once every three months with the presence of a top company executive.
However, Suthasinee Kawleklai, a representative of the MWRN, questioned whether the government is properly enforcing this law as well as whether companies are optimising the impact of the established workers’ welfare committees in their respective companies.
“Most importantly, the committee should represent the migrant workers as well as other minority groups in the company,” she said today during a seminar titled “After the IUU trend, is Thailand progressing or being stationary on fishery standards?”.
The seminar was jointly held by the Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, Asia Research Centre for Migration and the Civil Society Organisation Coalition for Ethical and Sustainable Seafood.
Somboon Trisilanunt, Deputy director-general of the Labour Ministry’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, responded to Suthasinee’s concerns, saying: “We have been strictly enforcing the regulation by issuing a warning to any company that does not follow the regulations on the establishment of a workers’ welfare committee.”
Furthermore, he continued, the department would take legal action against companies that still do not comply with the legal standards despite having been warned".
The department investigates around 35,000 companies at random in the fishery industry a year to make sure that they are following the workers’ welfare regulations, according to the deputy director-general.
However, NGOs have been protesting that the number of random assessments was far too few to maintain an appropriate level of welfare standards for migrant workers, especially in fishery.
However, Somboon said, the department only has an annual budget of Bt1 billion, with 60 per cent accounting for staff salaries. Hence, the public sector will need to continue working with the NGOs to monitor companies’ compliance, he added.
Somboon also noted that some smaller companies were not following the welfare regulations and were avoiding authorities while abusing their migrant employees.
“To cope with the issue, we have set up a special task force which will go into local areas to locate and take legal action against these companies,” he said.