Employers’ group wary of MFP wage policy

Employers’ group wary of MFP wage policy

Tripartite wage committee, not government, should continue to have the final say, says EconThai

Protesters hold a sign saying “Prices of Goods Go Up, Wages Down” as they demand an increase in the daily minimum wage for workers outside Government House on July 18 last year. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Protesters hold a sign saying “Prices of Goods Go Up, Wages Down” as they demand an increase in the daily minimum wage for workers outside Government House on July 18 last year. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry (EconThai) on Thursday voiced apprehension over the possible impact on businesses of the Move Forward Party’s wage policy.

Private sector members, particularly small and medium enterprises, are perturbed after learning details of the discussions held on Wednesday between Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat and the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said Thanit Sorat, vice-chairman of EconThai.

Move Forward pledged during the election campaign to raise the minimum wage to 450 baht from the current range of 328 to 354 baht. However, Mr Pita stressed to the FTI that wages would be raised gradually, so as not to create an economic shock, until they reached the target.

EconThai wants the new government to consider the matter carefully before implementing the policy, Mr Thanit said.

The tripartite wage committee — consisting of employers, employees and government officials — should be allowed to continue in its role as the key forum for determining how much the daily minimum wage should be, he said.

“Wages should never be made a policy for election campaigning in the first place because it is a matter that doesn’t directly concern the government’s budgetary management,” said Mr Thanit.

Any rises in daily wages normally come at the employer’s cost, he added.

He called on the Election Commission to prohibit political parties from promising unrealistically higher wages in future campaigns.

The government and state agencies concerned should focus instead on improving rules and regulations to ensure labour protection, he said.

If the minimum daily wage is made to increase sharply, many employers will be left with no choice but to replace as many workers as possible with robots, he said, adding that it would probably happen in the manufacturing and the service sectors.

When the Pheu Thai government imposed a 300-baht minimum daily wage policy in 2012, it greatly affected SMEs and led to more expensive consumer products, said Yongyuth Chalamwong, a labour economics and development scholar at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).

In the end, workers in the informal economy in particular, and the public at large, ended up suffering the consequences of higher living costs, he said.

An unnamed employee representative who sits on the tripartite wage committee’s sub-committee in Chon Buri said employees would ultimately suffer the consequences of a sharp rise in labour costs because their employers might consider headcount cuts if they could not cope with higher costs.

Mr Pita is scheduled to meet with labour representatives in Samut Prakan on Friday to discuss the party’s plans to raise daily wages.

MFP deputy leader Sirikanya Tansakun said on Thursday that the proposed minimum daily wage of 450 baht would still be subject to discussion among coalition parties.

It will be considered along with all of the economic policies of the other coalition partners, including Pheu Thai’s 10,000-baht digital wallet, she said.

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