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Respect ILO standards in EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement

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22 April, 2024IndustriALL Global Union and industriALL European Trade Union calls on the European Union (EU) to ensure that International Labour Standards are respected in the EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

In a letter to the EU leaders, including the president of the European Council Charles Michel and the president of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen dated 15 April, IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie and industriALL Europe general secretary Judith Kirton-Darling highlighted flagrant violation of workers' rights in Thailand, resulting in low unionization rate and weak collective bargaining power of Thai trade unions.

They explained that existing Thai labour laws impose various restrictions on freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. Trade unions were severely weakened as a result of a lack of protection from the state.

“It is imperative that the EU commit to include social justice and labour rights issues, especially a pledge from the government to ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which should lead to a reform of existing labour laws and practices and remove those obstacles that undermine the rights to organise and bargain collectively.” 

Høie said.

The EU is Thailand’s fourth largest trading partner after China, the United States and Japan. In 2022, Thailand exported US$22.8 billion worth of products to the EU. The exported goods include automotive, computer, electric circuits and jewellery products.

“The EU must ensure that the consequent growth in trade and investment between the EU and its trading partners does lead to improved environmental, social justice, human and labour rights outcomes.” 

 Kirton-Darling added.

Since the EU-Thailand FTA negotiation resumed in September 2023, trade unions in Thailand were in the dark of the negotiations. IndustriALL affiliate Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT) is urging the negotiating partners to respect international labour standards in the negotiation meetings.

Referring to the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement, CILT president Prasit Prasopsuk said:  

“Thai government should emulate the South Korea to ratify the ILO Convention 87 and 98 after the signing of the EU-Korea FTA.” 

In 2023, IndustriALL Thailand affiliates launched the campaign for ratification of Convention 87 and 98 as a step to address anti-union discrimination in the country. 

After a few rounds of engagement with the current administration, the ministry of labour set up a tripartite committee and two working groups to conduct a feasibility study on ratification of the two conventions.