Activists rally Thursday for 20% wage hike

Activists rally Thursday for 20% wage hike

Minimum pay fails to keep up with inflation

Labour groups are demanding a 20% hike in minimum wages for blue-collar workers to be applied nationwide, and today plan to march to Government House to submit a statement to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, according to the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee.

The 300-baht minimum daily wage has been in place for almost three years, during which time the costs of living have soared, said the committee's president, Wilaiwan Sae Tia.

Labour groups, who have asked the Ministry of Labour to raise the daily minimum wage from 300 to 360 baht, will gather at the Royal Plaza at 9.30am to reaffirm their call. They will then proceed to Government House to present the statement to the premier.

The 300-baht wage minimum, which was enacted during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, was unprecedented in Thailand.

Manas Kosol, the president of Confederation of Thai Labour (CTL), said instead of a flat rate of 360 baht, the new wage rate should be adjusted for inflation or slightly over the average annual inflation rate.

This would be practical and acceptable for employers, especially in small- to medium-sized businesses, said Mr Manas.

The CTL also said the current minimum wage policy — which should apply only to unskilled workers with less than one year of experience — is inadequate.

The ministry should put in place a legal mechanism to force employers to have a clear pay structure with mandatory annual pay rises for workers, said Mr Manas.

"This way the workers will no longer have to pin their hopes solely on the minimum daily wage hikes," he said.

Earlier, Labour permanent secretary Nakhon Silpa-archa said a number of options were being studied by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) to address the calls for wage hikes, and the results would be submitted to the wage committee this month.

Nida is examining whether to raise wages based on the level of economic development of the province, based on the type of industry, or a mixed approach, said Mr Manas.

"Pay rises for civil servants and state employees were recently made the same nationwide, so the minimum wage hike for workers should also be a single rate," Ms Wilaiwan said.

According to the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, the most likely outcome will be that the provincial wage sub-committees — tripartite panels of 15 representatives from government, employers and employees — submit separate wage hike proposals to the Labour Ministry's central wage panel.

The central wage committee considers proposals from the provincial panels on a case by case basis.

The problem is it does not guarantee a reasonable wage hike, said Ms Wilaiwan, adding that wage sub-committees tend to propose low increases.

The employee representatives in the sub-committees do not have much negotiating power, she said.

Meanwhile, an ex-chairman of the central wage committee, who represented the government and declined to be named, said current economic statistics including inflation, GDP, labour productivity and living standards need to be made available before negotiations take place.

While the 300-baht standardisation during the Yingluck administration boosted daily wages in certain provinces by between 40-85%, the truth is that over the past decade all adjustments have been below the inflation rate, he said.

Yongyuth Chalamwong, research director for the Thailand Development Research Institute's labour development section, said if wage hikes are not accompanied by efficient controls on consumer product prices, the raises will never keep up with rising living costs.

For example, when the 300-baht wage policy was implemented, average workers' incomes grew by 13%, but their cost of living rose by 16%, he said, adding costs have a direct impact on quality of life.

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