Social Security Office confirms ministry move to end board elections

Social Security Office confirms ministry move to end board elections

Stealthy push follows shock result in December

Members of the Social Security Progressive group campaign at a market ahead of the first election of members of the Social Security board, held on Dec 24, 2023. (Photo: @welfarestateTH X account)
Members of the Social Security Progressive group campaign at a market ahead of the first election of members of the Social Security board, held on Dec 24, 2023. (Photo: @welfarestateTH X account)

The Social Security Office (SSO) on Monday moved to allay public fears over the future of its first elected board, but confirmed a quiet attempt by the Labour Ministry to return to the appointment formula.

SSO deputy secretary-general Marasri Jairangsri said all elected board members were safe.

She said, however, the ministry was maneuvering to amend the Social Security Act to end elections for  board representatives of employers and employees.

The ministry's attempt came less than two months after the shock result of the first election of board members on Dec 24, which saw the Progressive Social Security group sweep up the seven seats representing employees. The group is an off-shoot of the Progressive Movement and Move Forward Party.

Political pundits pointed to the outcome as an indication of the rising popularity of the party.

While other political parties overlooked the first board election in SSO history, the Progressive Movement and Move Forward sent candidates out to canvas workers for votes, with a platform to make the organisation and its huge fund more transparent to ensure better benefits for contributors.

SSO had 24.5 million members as of June last year, covering 60% of the total labour force in the country. It managed 2.4 trillion baht, equally contributed by businesses and workers as of December last year. Its quarterly performance is posted on its website.

The election in December set a precedent. Employers and employees voted for seven representatives each, to join seven representatives of state and professional groups sitting on the board. Prior to that, all 21 members of the board were handpicked by the labour minister, showing the close connection between the ministry and the SSO.

The Progressive Social Security group disclosed on Friday that the ministry was trying to amend the act to remove the clause that allows for the election of board members and return the selection to the appointment format. The ministry planned to table the amendment proposal to the cabinet for approval, it said.

It also posted a message on X accusing the ministry of attempting to hold on to its influence over the SSO by returning to the appointment process with sole authority residing with the minister.

The ministry's move to change the law was eventually confirmed by Ms Marasri, on Monday, but she denied it was politically motivated by the landslide victory of the Progressive Social Security group.

The SSO deputy secretary-general said the ministry began considering the legal amendment in 2022, but made no progress because parliament was dissolved early the next year.

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