Scholar lashes minister's compo stand

Scholar lashes minister's compo stand

Chatu Mongkol defends calling for higher rate

An academic has slammed Labour Minister MR Chatu Mongol Sonakul for failing to act in line with the board of the Social Security Office (SSO) decision regarding compensation payments to workers insured under the Social Security Act who lost their jobs or were suspended from work due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yongyuth Chalamwong, a research director for labour development at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said the board is run by a tripartite system comprising state agencies, employers and employees, with experts on social security issues to provide information and recommendations for the board to make decisions.

The labour minister is a politician who oversees the SSO. However, no minister has ever gone contrary to a board decision before now, Mr Yongyuth said.

''This is a major concern because it is about rules that separate the power of state officials and political office-holders. This is not right. Otherwise, politicians will always interfere with the funds,'' Mr Yongyuth said.

Previously, the SSO board voiced disagreement with the Labour Ministry's plan to raise compensation payments to workers affected by the pandemic. The board stands by its March 24 decision that compensation for workers should be 50% of their wages capped at 15,000 baht a month for a period of two months.

The Labour Ministry, however, decided to raise the compensation payment from 50% to 62%, covering a period of three months. That proposal was approved by the cabinet on April 15. The minister has gone one up on that again, proposing 75%, though no decision on that has been made.

Labour activists have disagreed with the 62% payment as they saw it as a way for the government to pass the buck for compensation to the Social Security Fund (SSF).

Mr Yongyuth said the ministry must take responsibility and think of ways to pay the difference in compensation payments such as an executive decree for borrowing to replenish the SSF. The maximum ceiling of the daily wage -- 500 baht a day or 15,000 baht a month -- is used to calculate the compensation. The current rate of 62% comes to 9,300 baht a month. Based on that calculation, the new 75% rate will total 11,250 baht a month.

Responding to criticism, MR Chatu Mongol yesterday defended his decision to raise the compensation payment to 62%, saying it is not fair for those who have paid contributions to the SSF for 10 years but have not received the amount they deserve.

He said the SSO board gives advice and suggestions, and it is in the minister's power to raise the compensation payment.

''I did not approve it when they proposed 50%. I told them to review the matter. The permanent secretary for labour resubmitted with 62%, and I approved it as a ministerial regulation,'' Mr Chatu Mongol said.

In a related development this week, MR Chatu Mongol on Wednesday said he would ask the cabinet to approve a further increase in compensation payouts to 75% of daily wages, which has also drawn flak from labour activists. If approved it will be retroactive from March.

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