On 1 May 2016, the Northern Labour Network, which is comprised of 15 organizations, including MMN, organized the International Workers’ Day (May Day) event at Banpak Tassanajorn, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Over 200 workers and members of the Northern Labour Network participated.
At the opening, Mr. Brahm Press, Director of MAP Foundation, gave a speech and explained that the main objective of holding the International Workers’ Day is to call for all workers to unite, collectively demand their rights, and exchange the dilemmas and challenges that they have faced.
Another speaker followed by explaining that May Day was started more than 100 year ago when workers in the United States (U.S.) staged a protest calling for their rights. In those days, workers there had to work for long hours and they frequently had their rights violated. The first protest in the U.S. was cracked down and labour strikes consequently spread all over the world. The main demand by the workers was the eight-hour workday. They would then be able to secure eight hours for rest and leisure and another eight hours for learning.
Speeches were followed by performance by worker, showing the difficulties they face at work. After that, participants were divided into groups including construction workers group, domestic workers group, sex workers group, agriculture workers group and industrial workers group for group discussion. During the discussion, participants and group leaders talked about what kind of rights violation workers have experienced and what are the demands that workers wish to make. Group leaders also explained to the worker representatives about the rights they are entitled to.
In the afternoon, each group presented the outcome of discussion. The synthesis of the recommendations coming from this session is found in the statement below.
Finally, the event ended with a plenary session emphasizing the importance of workers’ knowledge about their rights, and reaffirming the importance of workers’ unity. Only then will collective voices have the strength to make employers listen to their voices.
Following the May Day celebration a day earlier, on 2 May 2016, hundreds of migrant workers and members of the Northern Labour Network gathered at Tassanajorn, Chiang Mai. They finalised the statement that included their demands and submitted it to Chiang Mai Vice Governor after reading it out in front of all those gathered there. After that, migrant workers performed their experience as a show. The event completed, following the workers’ march to Chiang Mai City Hall.
|Demands for International Workers’ Day (May Day), 1 May 2016
Every year May 1st is celebrated as International Workers’ Day or “May Day” – the day when workers around the world join the struggle for recognition that all occupations are equally important. It is the day workers call to have their human rights respected and their contribution to the economy acknowledged.
Using this opportunity, the Northern Labour Network, which is comprised of 15 organizations, academics from Chiang Mai and workers representatives, organized a workshop in order to identify problems and obstacles workers are still facing. One problem identified is the difficulties faced in expanding and strengthening workers unions, which leads to a lack of participation and poor representation of workers in tripartite committees. Most migrant workers do not receive the legally established labour standards such as the minimum wage, proper work hours, paid days off, holidays and working overtime. They experience health problems related to occupational safety and health, yet still do not receive instructions or training on how to properly use hazardous chemicals, dangerous equipment or first aid in their own language. Migrants lack access to Social Security benefits as employers fail to enroll their employees. Those who are enrolled still have problems receiving all the benefits they are entitled to, such as child allowance and old-age benefits, due to a lack of implementing guidelines and complicated documentation requirements. Migrants are also facing increasing restrictions which limit their freedom of mobility and make them more vulnerable to exploitation.
From the meeting where over 200 workers and members of the Northern Labour Network came together to identify the problems they face and develop recommendations, we present the following set of demands to the Governor’s Office of Chiang Mai and the Thai Royal Government including the Ministry of Interior:
To the Governor of Chiang Mai
1. We request the governor of Chiang Mai to establish a Permanent Committee on Workers Issues which is comprised of relevant government agencies, members of the Northern Labour Network,
academics, legal specialists on labour issues, and labour unions, in order to resolve problems related to occupational safety and health, and to ensure all workers access their full labour rights.
Demands to the Royal Thai Government
1. Establish a Committee to oversee and monitor recruitment agencies for migrant workers in order to resolve the problem of agencies placing migrants in jobs different from that which was identified in the work agreement.
2. Have the agencies responsible for the migrant registration process and issuing of work permits reduce the number of steps, reduce excessive paperwork, and make the cost affordable to migrants.
3. Have the Royal Thai Government ratify ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 189 on the Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize, on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, and Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
4. Have the Royal Thai Government increase the minimum wage to 421 Baht and enforce its use nationwide.
5. Have the Royal Thai Government recognize “Sex Work as Work,” including entitlement to protections under all the labour laws.
6. Amend the Working of Alien Act B.E. 2551 to allow migrants to work in all occupations according to their abilities without restriction, and extend the working age to 60 years of age.
7. Amend the Ministerial Order which excludes certain occupations from enrolling under Social Security, and allow every worker to be able to enroll and access the benefits of Social Security and Workers Compensation Fund equally without discrimination, and allow individuals to choose the type of pension payment without restriction on the age of claimant.
Recommendation to the Ministry of Interior
1. Have the Ministry of Interior lift the regulations on migrant workers’ ability to travel freely in the country and back home.
For you to consider and implement immediately,
The Northern Labour Network
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
Shan Youth Power
Migrant Worker federation (MWF)
Workers Solidarity Association (WSA)
Workers’ Rights Promotion Association
Federation of Garment Factory and Textile Workers Union
Federation of Jewelry and Accessories Workers Union
Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
Home-Based Workers Group
Gab Fai Community Theatre
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Northern Network of Informal Workers (HomeNet Thailand)
The statement of International Workers’ Day (May Day) 2016 in Thai language is available here: ข้อเรียกร้องเนื่องในวันกรรมกรสากล 1 พ.ค. 2016 – ฉบับยื่นต่อจังหวัด
See the following link for related news of International Workers’ Day Event in Chiang Mai on DVB Burmese/Myanmar news:
Workers from Chiang Mai called for their daily minimum wage to be raised to above 400 Thai Baht