As the 1,000 Burmese migrant workers at the Dechapanich Fishing Net Factory finished their 6th day of striking, they had succeeded in getting the two year visa reactivated for the five workers whose visas had been cancelled after they took more than three days sick leave and had been sacked. In negotiations with 8 workers representatives, the local Immigration authorities agreed to correct the visas, thus allowing the five workers to continue to stay in Thailand and be able to look for a new employer. The other 900 workers whose passports remain with the employer are also being checked to ensure that they have not been also been changed or cancelled. It is still unclear whether the employer will actually agree for the migrants to hold their own documents as is required by law.
Negotiations on the other demands of the migrants did not make any progress. The factory had sent a representative to the negotiations who had no decision making powers. The migrants were very frustrated by the lack of interest and respect given to their situation by the factory employer.
The negotiations will continue tomorrow and the workers hope that the factory will send higher level representatives who can negotiate on wages and payment of the work permit. Currently workers say they are paid 140 baht (US$4.3) for an 8 hour day, when the legal minimum wage is 157 baht (US$4.9) and experienced workers would usually be expected to earn over the minimum wage.
The migrants grievance on wages includes demanding discussions regarding the system of paying for the work permits which bonds the worker to the employer, forcing them to stay with the employer. The migrant workers say that if they leave the employment before the end of the year, even if they have had their wages deducted and worked with payment, they still have to pay back the full amount for the work permit. These systems of debt bondage are contrary to the practices of decent work and need to be urgently revised. Were the employer to pay the actual cost of the work permit process it would cost him no more than 0.5US$ a day for one year, surely a small price to pay for ensuring that workers can exercise their basic rights. The workers say that the employer would not need to fear that they would leave their employment, if the employers complied with the labour laws, the workers will stay.