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Thai unions campaign for minimum wage increase

14 July, 2015IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Thailand are campaigning alongside unions in all sectors to increase the national daily minimum wage from US$ 8.8 to US$ 10.6. Unions are also opposing a plan to return to a regional structure with minimum wage varying from between provinces.

The rate was increased from 215 baht in 2013 by the previous Yingluck Shinawatra government. The current trade union demand of a 20 per cent is based on the recent high increase in workers’ cost of living.

Trade unions pushing the campaign are members of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC). IndustriALL affiliates are involved through the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT), and the Confederation of Thai Electrical Appliances, Electronic Automobile and Metalworkers (TEAM).

On 9 July the TLSC and all its affiliates conducted coordinated action around Thailand, simultaneously presenting petitions to provincial governors to demand support for the wage increase and to maintain the national minimum wage system.

On 25 June all affiliates of the TLSC together marched to Government House to submit a statement to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Yongyuth Mentapao, CILT president, told IndustriALL:

Every time we negotiate to raise the minimum wage we always receive many negative comments but we confirm that the TLSC demand is based on our research and reflects people’s daily expenses.

For employers workers are just materials of the production system and Thailand has still not ratified the core ILO Conventions 87and 98. This makes it difficult for workers to bargain collectively at plant level and the labour movement can only campaign at the policy level.

Standard national minimum wages are important for Thai workers in terms of social justice, decreasing social inequality and decreasing migrant worker problems due to workers moving to areas with higher wages.

IndustriALL Global Union Regional Secretary Annie Adviento said:

IndustriALL fights for a living wage throughout our region. Workers in Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam are all mobilizing for fair wages and IndustriALL affiliates are at the centre of those struggles. We will continue to focus around this goal.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand are strongly opposing a raise in the minimum wage and advocating for provincial changes in the future. A June survey of Thai manufacturing companies showed employer resistance to any minimum wage hike. The Federation of Thai Industries recently called for the government to set up a new tripartite committee to consider changes in the minimum wage on a provincial basis.

The official unemployment rate in Thailand is less than one per cent.