Poor foreign workers: No minimum wage
- Published: 12/07/2011 at 09:32 PM
- Online news:
Employers get around minimum wages with workers from poorer countries which they pay less.
Economics: Waiting to catch up, Burmese workers struggle to receive the existing minimum wage, never mind the sum the new government is promising by Kong Janoi
Ma Thazin toils from from 8 am to 5 pm in a steel factory in Samut Sakhon province for 180 baht a day - 35 baht lower than the province's current minimum wage of 215 baht, which is set by the government.
"When I came to ask for a job, the boss said she would give me 200 baht a day but when I got my payment, she gave me only 180 baht," said the disappointed Burmese worker.
If I can get another job, I definitely will.
"But finding a better-paying job is not easy. "Every employer wants to pay a lower wage to workers," she said.
She holds out no hope for the 300-baht minimum wage promised by the incoming Thai government.
"I already get lower than what I am supposed to; why would this change anything?" she asked.
Many migrant worker groups are also sceptical about the new minimum wage policy.
Ko Moe Swe, general secretary of Young Chi Oo Burmese Workers' Association, said migrant workers are unlikely to benefit from a future raise if employers are unwilling to pay up to the minimum wage now.
"The government has kept increasing the minimum wage for the past few years. It's now at 162 baht a day in Mae Sot yet many factories here keep paying 70 baht a day to workers," he said, referring to the western border province that has a high concentration of Burmese labourers.
"Whatever the new wage is, I don't think migrant workers here in Mae Sot will be benefit from it."
Ni Ni Myint has been working in a sewing factory in Mae Sot and started at 70 baht a day seven years ago. Now she makes 110 baht, but doesn't expect to ever reach 300 baht.
The association successfully sued a Thai factory in Mae Sot in 2005 for paying migrant workers less than the minimum wage.
Ko Moe Swe said that although they won the case, many factories still don't pay the minimum wage in Mae Sot because people are willing to work for less. "If employers lose a worker, two more will get in line to work for the same amount of money," he said.
To solve this problem, workers need to stand up for their rights, he said.
Jackie Pollock, the director of Migrant Association Programme Foundation, said migrant workers need to be better informed about their rights and wages.
"The government has the responsibility to make sure workers are paid at least the minimum wage," said Ms Pollock.
She said that if migrant workers are not paid the current minimum, she doubts whether a new minimum wage will benefit them.
The legal battle for migrant workers is hard because they could lose their legal status and jobs if they have a dispute with their employers. By law, migrant workers have seven days to stay in the country and find another employer if they leave their job, said Ms Pollock.
Ma Thazin and Ni Ni Myint are too afraid to challenge their employers in court about their wages. They say they will just find another job instead of complaining
Some other migrant workers earn closer to the minimum wage.
Working from 7 am to 7 pm in a cotton factory in Bangkok, Ma Cho earns 215 baht a day. She hardly knows what goes on outside the factory, but she's open to a higher minimum wage.
"I don't know if our employer will increase our wages or not. We will just wait and see," said Ma Cho, who came to work at the factory a year ago, seeking a better income.
Nai Kyark Rot Hongsa is a manager in a fish-processing factory in Samut Prakan. Working from 8 am to 5 pm for the past 15 years in the factory, he earns 255 baht a day.
"We will ask our boss to increase the wages once a policy is set, but if he cannot increase our payment we cannot do anything because we depend on him," said Nai Kyark Rot.
He said the workers barely manage to save any money because of rising expenses. Many migrant workers come to work in Thailand expecting to save money for their future, he said
Thai Labour Ministry figures show 206,299 migrant workers are registered with 32,323 Thai employers. Burmese comprise 149,990 of the workers, followed by 36,605 Cambodians and 19,704 Laotians
However, the actual figures are likely much higher, as Amnesty International notes more than a million Burmese migrant workers are employed in various Thai sectors including fisheries, manufacturing, domestic work, construction, hotels, restaurants and agriculture.
While some analysts have cautioned a higher Thai minimum wage will attract more migrant workers to enter illegally, Nai Suwanna, a broker in Myawaddy, the Burmese border town, said the prospect is unlikely.
He said many Burmese crossed the border in previous months when Thailand announced it would issue worker identification cards. "I have not heard about a new minimum wage and neither have other people here," he said.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Economics, Waiting to catch up, Burmese workers struggle to receive the existing minimum wage, never mind the sum the new government is promising, Kong Janoi, 11/07/2011, link)
struggle - a very difficult task that you can do only by making a great effort ความพยายาม
wage - an amount of money that you earn for working, usually according to how many hours or days you work each week or month ค่าจ้าง
minimum wage - the smallest amount of money that a company can pay a worker for one day's work
sum - an amount of something, especially money จำนวนเงิน
promising - saying that you will do something for sure (if you don't do it, then you "break your promise")
toils - works very hard
current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน
disappointed - unhappy because someone or something was not as good as you hoped or expected, or because something did not happen ผิดหวัง
employer - a person, company, or organisation that pays someone to work for them as a member of their staff นายจ้าง
migrant - moving from one place to another อพยพ
migrant worker - someone who travels to another place or country in order to find work (an immigrant is someone who comes to live in a country from another country) ผู้อพยพ
sceptical - having doubts about something that other people think is true or right สงสัย
policy - a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย
benefit - to get help or an advantage from something ผลประโยชน์
employers - companies that hire workers
border - the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
concentration - a lot of something in one place แหล่งชุมนุม หรือ ศูนย์รวม
rights - what the law allows you to have and do สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)
stand up for their rights - tray hard to got what your rights say you should get, fight for your rights
informed - knowing about something
better informed about their rights - know more about what rights you have (by law) and how you can defend your rights
wages - the amount of money earned per hour by a worker
responsibility - having to take care of some task as part of your job
doubts - feel uncretain and question whether something is really true
legal battle -
legal status -
status - official or legal position สถานภาพ สถานะ
dispute - an argument over some problem, a conflict a serious disagreement การโต้เถียง, ความขัดแย้ง
challenge in court - bring a legal case to prove that you are right and the other guy is right (and perhaps be awarded damages)
income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
barely - almost not happening แทบไม่เคยเกิดขึ้น
figures - statistics, numbers describing the economy
registered - officially recorded with the government
comprise - to consist or be made up of two or more things ประกอบด้วย
actual - real; existing in fact จริง
employed - used ใช้
fisheries - fish farms, places to raise fishes
domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
caution - warn
attract - to cause someone to be interested in something ดึงดูดความสนใจ
prospect - the possibility that something will happen in the future ความคาดหวัง ความหวังข้างหน้า อนาคต
prospect is unlikely - unlikely, probably will not happen
issue - to give or provide something official แจกจ่าย
identification - the process of finding out what or who someone is การชี้ตัว การหาตัวผู้กระทำผิด
issue worker identification cards - give migrant workers cards that they can use for identification (to show people, including the police, who they are)
About the author
- Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Assistent Manager Educational services