Contract rule abused to cut costs: activist

Contract rule abused to cut costs: activist

A rights advocacy group is accusing employers in border areas of exploiting Section 64 of the executive decree on migrant workers to cut costs.

Section 64 of the decree allows employers in border areas to hire migrant workers for "seasonal jobs" without having to provide benefits accorded to other workers.

"Some of these employers would continuously renew these short-term seasonal work contracts instead of signing proper employment contracts [for the workers]," said Chonticha Tangworamongkon, a programme director with the Human Rights and Development Foundation.

The foundation said several factories in Tak's Mae Sot district are intentionally hiring workers from Myanmar to take advantage of Section 64 to slash their labour costs, said Ms Chonticha.

"The decree was intended to regulate workers in the agricultural sector," she said, before adding that companies began abusing the decree after the previous government cracked down on illegal labourers and introduced better welfare coverage to legally-registered migrant workers.

Last year, the military government signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the Cambodian and Myanmar governments to allow the hiring of short-term seasonal workers, in a bid to ease labour shortages in certain sectors, such as farming and fishery.

Under the MoU, employers based in border areas -- which include Chiang Rai, Tak, Kanchanaburi and Ranong in the North and West, as well as Surin, Sa Kaeo, Chanthaburi, Trat, Ubon Ratchathani, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket in the East -- can hire seasonal workers as sanctioned by Section 64.

"Exploiting the section means less labour costs for the employer, as they are not required under Section 64 to pay for social security levies and compensate workers in cases of accidents," said Ms Chonticha.

Some employers have even forced workers from Myanmar who were legally registered to work here to switch to short-term seasonal contracts because it suited them.

"Under temporary work contracts, workers will have to sue their employers if they want to claim compensation for workplace accidents," said Ms Chonticha.

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