Workers, bosses joust over minimum wage increases

Workers, bosses joust over minimum wage increases

A Bangkok labourer struggles with a large load. Workers and employers both are expressing opposition to a new schedule for minimum wages, due to take effect April 1. (File photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
A Bangkok labourer struggles with a large load. Workers and employers both are expressing opposition to a new schedule for minimum wages, due to take effect April 1. (File photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

Workers and employers are still not satisfied with increases in the minimum daily wage following seven hours of talks involving a tripartite wage committee.

However, the government has insisted that the new wage hikes are most suited for the current economic conditions.

The minimum daily wages will increase nationwide from April 1 in a range of 5-22 baht.

Phuket, Chon Buri and Rayong will get the highest rate of 330 baht a day.

The tripartite national wage committee agreed on the increases on Wednesday night.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the cabinet's economy tsar, pointed out Thursday that the increments are suitable because they have been agreed upon by agencies and employers' representatives.

If any business operators feel they will be adversely affected, the Finance Ministry will come up with tax measures to help ease their burden, Mr Somkid said.

He also said the Commerce Ministry has been instructed to closely monitor prices of goods and services to ensure consumer prices are fairly charged following the wage hikes.

"Wages have not been increased for more than three years. And when workers receive proper wages, they will have more purchasing power, which in turn will benefit traders and the economy as a whole will improve," Mr Somkid said.

Permanent secretary for labour Jarin Jakkaphark, who is also chairman of the wage committee, said the proposed wage increases will go before the cabinet meeting next Tuesday.

He said the wage committee had reached a consensus that the new wage rates are suitable in the current economic climate, and they do not need to be reviewed.

But Chalee Loysoong, deputy chairman of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC), repeated his calls for a countrywide flat wage rate of 360 baht, though he said that the wage hikes ranging from 308 to 330 baht are still acceptable.

TLSC deputy chairwoman Thanaporn Wichan echoed calls for a flat rate, saying the committee will meet on Monday to discuss the matter and will call on the government to review the wage hikes.

Chen Namchaisiri, chairman for the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said the agency will meet with members next Monday to discuss the wage boosts.

"We have assigned the members to analyse and forecast any impacts on the business sectors," he said.

"The FTI is compiling data from our members in 77 provinces."

Earlier, Mr Chen said the agency is still concerned about any effects on small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The firms will suffer higher costs of production, he said.

But the new rates should be acceptable for every party.

They may not be a concern for large corporates because they can invest in higher technology such as robotics and automation to avoid labour costs, he said.

Yongyuth Chalamwong, a research director on labour development with the Thailand Development Research Institute, welcomed the wage hikes, saying it will be a good start to laying down clear strategies to develop tourism provinces and industrial provinces, which will boost the distribution of income and economic growth and employment.

There will be seven wage rates: 308 baht, 310 baht, 315 baht, 318 baht, 320 baht, 325 baht and 330 baht. The average minimum wage is 315.97 baht.

While Phuket, Chon Buri and Rayong get the highest rate, the three southernmost provinces -- Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat -- will receive the lowest at 308 baht.

The committee agreed the wage rises will come into effect on April 1, Mr Jarin said. The talks took time as the panel had to take into consideration all factors before reaching a decision, the chairman of the tripartite wage committee said.

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