The World Day for Decent Work bore witness to a remarkable protest in the vibrant capital of Thailand, Bangkok. Roughly 600 committed laborers made their voices heard, rallying for the causes that impact their livelihoods. They passionately urged the government to rectify inequitable employment conditions and bolster job security. The demonstration unfolded along the iconic Ratchadamnoen Avenue, pulling together diverse members from the Thai Labour Solidarity Confederation (TLSC), the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), and the International Labour Organisation Convention Mobility Network.
Leader of the pack, Sawit Kaewwan from TLSC, amplified the labor-centric issues to the fore during the public event. The workers wanted the Labor Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn and the government to eradicate short-term employment and unstable labour contracts spanning public and private sectors. Furthermore, they collectively appealed to the government to postpone any future plans of privatizing state enterprises covering energy, transport, banking, and telecommunication.
Sawit posited that the government should wield control over state enterprises to maintain low public utility prices. He theorized that this would subdue production costs and ease household expenses. He championed the State Enterprise Development Bill proposed by SERC as an alternative method of streamlining state enterprises instead of resorting to privatization, as per the report in Bangkok Post.
Somporn Kwannet, acting as an adviser to TLSC, observed that there’s a growing trend of companies hiring workers on contract. These contracts, however, offer no solid guarantees for comprehensive benefits or steadfast job security. In the same vein, Osot Suwansawet, president of the Government Employee Union of Thailand, painted a picture from his personal experience as a public health contract worker at Maharaj Hospital in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Despite being a Social Security Fund subscriber and earning minimum wage, Suwansawet lacks access to pensions or layoff compensations. The Ministry of Public Health employs an astonishing figure of 200,000 contract workers across public hospitals in the country. Ironically, despite decades-long labor advocacy, employers haven’t provided the much-needed welfare benefits.
In a candid chat, Tang, a 23-year-old contract worker at a factory in Chon Buri, narrated his life’s story. He is paid around 18,000 baht (US$487) a month, a figure grossly low compared to permanent staff in the same position who earn over 30,000 baht (US$812). He finds this glaring wage discrepancy distressing. “The company gifts an annual bonus in excess of 10,000 baht (US$270) to permanent workers. Interestingly, contract workers, although crucial to the company’s profit margins, are denied the right to enjoy equal benefits.”
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