Prayut vows better work conditions
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha marked May Day yesterday by vowing to make Thailand one of the most powerful Asean nations and promising to respond to calls by labour groups for better work conditions.
A key strategy his government will use to achieve Thailand's goal to become an influential country in Asean is the so-called "Thai plus one", which refers to Thailand's future collaboration with each of its neighbouring countries, said the premier in a speech delivered to labour groups gathered at Sanam Luang yesterday.
As the constitution-drafting process continues, the government's core policy is to make the public the centre of efforts to improve the situation in the country, Gen Prayut said.
Labour problems are also important and the government will step in to resolve them, he promised.
He accepted and will consider ways to meet the 11 demands, submitted by 14 labour organisations, to ease workers' woes. Some of the demands might be immediately implemented while others may take some time, he said.
The 14 labour organisations yesterday requested the government ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise and Bargain Collectively.
Among other demands, the organisations also want the government to pass draft amendments to the Labour Protection Act 1998 and promulgate a new law to insure workers against job loss without compensation when businesses close.
The current labour protection law also does not stipulate retirement ages for company employees, as law drafters wanted employers and employees to come up with their own agreements, according to Udomsak Buppanimit, president of the Thailand Council of Workers' Organisations and Labour Unions.
But it has become a huge legal loophole as many employers intentionally avoid specifying retirement ages for their employees simply because they do not want to pay the retirement compensation, Mr Udomsak said.
Many ageing workers are forced to resign when they are too old to continue working and in such cases, employers do not have to pay any sort of pension, he said.
Chan, 75, a textile factory worker in Samut Sakhon, who wished only to be identified by one name, has worked at the same company for 40 years but said she cannot retire as she earns 300 baht per day and her employer has never said when she should retire.
Groups also called for a higher minimum wage and better control of consumer product prices.
Gen Prayut said the government had already helped cut living costs by asking manufacturers to produce cheaper goods and for cooked food vendors to supply more low-priced food.
According to Gen Prayut, Thailand has the lowest rate of unemployment in Asean, with about 31 million people in the labour market, another 15 million in the agricultural sector and about 1.6 million registered migrant workers.
"Now what the government is attempting to achieve is to resolve the problems of the entire labour system. The government is building a better system and better labour laws," he said.