On May 1-2, 2016 at Chiang Mai, MAP Foundation, as part of the Northern Labour Network, which is comprised of 15 organizations, held a workshop with over 150 migrant workers from various occupations. On the first day, the workshop was opened by a performance by migrants, organized by Gab Fai Community Theatre. The performance, without dialogue, illustrated migrants’ problems, ranging from unfair treatment at work, improper wages and lack of social protections.
The participants of the meeting then broke into groups by their respective occupations to discuss the problems they face and find ways to resolve them, including through policy change. Occupations represented include: factory workers, domestic workers, agriculture, construction workers, sub-contracted workers, service workers, sex workers, and Thai worker representatives. The groups then presented back and recommendations were collected. There was a panel of speakers including Prof. Chareonlurd, of the Faculty of Economics, Chiang Mai University, Prof. Kitireunglab, from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, the Honorable LaddawanTantiwittayapitak, the Secretary of the Law Reform Commission, and Prof. Chaitaweeb of the Faculty of Liberal Arts Mae Jo University. The speakers raised broader issues of laws and how they provide frameworks for equality, but pointed out that the problem is the way these laws are implemented. The feedback from the day was then prepared into a statement.
On the second day, the group reviewed the statementand provided inputs for changes. There was then a news conference where representatives read thestatement (attached below). The group then proceeded to the Provincial Government House where they marched briefly with banners and stopped in front of the government house. There they met with and presented the statement with demands to government representatives including the vice-governor responsible for labour protections. The Gab Fai team performed once more, and then the group dispersed peacefully. There will be follow-up to see if the demands are implemented. A key recommendation to the local government was:
To establish a Permanent Committee on Workers Issues which is comprised of relevant government agencies, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, legal specialists on labour issues, and labour unions, in order to resolve problems related to occupational safety and health, and to ensure all workers access their full labour rights.
Demands for International Workers’ Day (May Day), 1 May 2016
Every year May 1st is celebrated as International Workers’ Day or “May Day” – the day when workers around the world join the struggle for recognition that all occupations are equally important. It is the day workers call to have their human rights respected and their contribution to the economy acknowledged.
Using this opportunity, the Northern Labour Network, which is comprised of 15 organizations, academics from Chiang Mai and workers representatives, organized a workshop in order to identify problems and obstacles workers are still facing. One problem identified is the difficulties faced in expanding and strengthening workers unions, which leads to a lack of participation and poor representation of workers in tripartite committees. Most migrant workers do not receive the legally established labour standards such as the minimum wage, proper work hours, paid days off, holidays and working overtime. They experience health problems related to occupational safety and health, yet still do not receive instructions or training on how to properly use hazardous chemicals, dangerous equipment or first aid in their own language. Migrants lack access to Social Security benefits as employers fail to enroll their employees. Those who are enrolled still have problems receiving all the benefits they are entitled to, such as child allowance and old-age benefits, due to a lack of implementing guidelines and complicated documentation requirements. Migrants are also facing increasing restrictions which limit their freedom of mobility and make them more vulnerable to exploitation.
From the meeting where over 200 workers and members of the Northern Labour Network came together to identify the problems they face and develop recommendations, we present the following set of demands to the Governor’s Office of Chiang Mai and the Thai Royal Government including the Ministry of Interior:
To the Governor of Chiang Mai
- We request the governor of Chiang Mai to establish a Permanent Committee on Workers Issues which is comprised of relevant government agencies, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, legal specialists on labour issues, and labour unions, in order to resolve problems related to occupational safety and health, and to ensure all workers access their full labour rights.
Demands to the Royal Thai Government
- Establish a Committee to oversee and monitor recruitment agencies for migrant workers in order to resolve the problem of agencies placing migrants in jobs different from that which was identified in the work agreement.
- Have the agencies responsible for the migrant registration process and issuing of work permits reduce the number of steps, reduce excessive paperwork, and make the cost affordable to migrants.
- Have the Royal Thai Government ratify ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 189 on the Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize, on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, and Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
- Have the Royal Thai Government increase the minimum wage to 421 Baht and enforce its use nationwide.
- Have the Royal Thai Government recognize “Sex Work as Work,” including entitlement to protections under all the labour laws.
- Amend the Working of Alien Act B.E. 2551 to allow migrants to work in all occupations according to their abilities without restriction, and extend the working age to 60 years of age.
- Amend the Ministerial Order which excludes certain occupations from enrolling under Social Security, and allow every worker to be able to enroll and access the benefits of Social Security and Workers Compensation Fund equally without discrimination, and allow individuals to choose the type of pension payment without restriction on the age of claimant.
Recommendation to the Ministry of Interior
- Have the Ministry of Interior lift the regulations on migrant workers’ ability to travel freely in the country and back home.
For you to consider and implement immediately,
The Northern Labour Network
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
Shan Youth Power
Migrant Worker federation (MWF)
Workers Solidarity Association (WSA)
Workers’ Rights Promotion Association
Federation of Garment Factory and Textile Workers Union
Federation of Jewelry and Accessories Workers Union
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
Home-Based Workers Group
Gab Fai Community Theatre
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Northern Network of Informal Workers (HomeNet Thailand)