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The Solidarity Center joins with Thai unions and community groups in pushing for enforcement of international labor standards and national labor law, protecting the rights of migrant workers, preventing human trafficking and achieving legal redress for trafficking victims.
Between 2 million and 4 million migrant workers toil in Thailand as dockworkers, in seafood and domestic work. Photo: Jeanne Hallacy

In the past decade, Thailand has made great strides in providing people with better access to fuller social protections, and nearly everyone is covered by health insurance. Between 2000 and 2011, Thailand reduced poverty by two-thirds, from 42.6 percent to 13.2 percent and in 2011, unemployment was 0.7 percent.

But Thailand still has a long way to go to achieve “decent work for all,” especially for the large informal workforce and the millions of migrant workers toiling in the fish processing and construction industries and as domestic workers. Some 26.7 percent of workers have social security protections, but some 24.8 million people—63 percent of the total workforce—working in the informal sector have no such coverage.

Migrant workers in Thailand experience some of worst abuse in the world. Between 2 million and 4 million migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos toil in Thailand, and reports describe the Thai fishing industry as being built on the slavery of migrant workers. In 2014, the U.S. State Department cited serious human trafficking problems in Thailand and downgraded the country in its annual Trafficking in Persons report, meaning Thailand is liable to sanctions, which could include the withholding or withdrawal of U.S. non-humanitarian and non-trade assistance.

Despite provisions in Thailand’s constitution that protect the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the government failed to adopt International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98, which cover these rights, and its labor law is not in compliance with ILO core labor standards. Thai labor law prohibits nearly 80 percent of the workforce from freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. As a result, only 1.5 percent of Thailand’s nearly 40 million workers belong to unions.

Under Thai labor law, workers in the private sector have the right to form and join unions. But membership and eligibility restrictions undermine this right. Despite the ban on anti-union discrimination, employers frequently dismiss workers who are trying to form unions, and the courts often take the side of employers.

Thailand among Countries Failing to Address Human Trafficking. June 20, 2014—Thailand was among six countries that failed to comply with the minimum standards to address human trafficking over the past year, according to the State Department in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) released today.

Workers Stunned at Thailand’s Vote Against Forced Labor Protocol. June 13, 2014—Thailand’s State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) is expressing shock that the country’s new government was the only nation to vote against a new legally binding treaty requiring punishment of perpetrators of forced labor.

Thailand Vows to Ratify Two Key Worker Rights Standards. October 9, 2013—The Thai government agreed to ratify two key international worker rights standards this week, following a 3,000-strong rally made up of workers from all national federations, unions, networks of migrant workers and informal workers, and allied organizations.

Thailand: Founders of Migrant Workers Network Get ILRF Award. May 23, 2013—Secretary General Sawit Kaewwan of the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) and President Aung Kyaw of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) received awards yesterday in Washington, D.C., for their work to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers in Thailand.

Thailand: Police Get Manual to Combat Human Trafficking. January 4, 2012—Thai police will now be equipped with a detailed manual, created with Solidarity Center support, that will help them identify and address human trafficking, a growing crime in many countries that involves forced labor or sexual exploitation.

Solidarity Center Mourns Loss of Thai Union Leader. October 5, 2012—The Solidarity Center mourns the unexpected passing of Charan Komkhumtot, better known as Bualoi.

Burmese Migrant Workers Double Their Wages after Strike. May 23, 2012—As workers around the world celebrated International Labor Day May 1, more than 500 migrant workers on the Thai-Burmese border took collective action to demand their employer improve wages and working conditions in a garment factory where they were earning less than 25 cents per hour for an 11-hour shift, according to reports.

Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi Meets with Burmese Migrant Workers and Solidarity Center Partner Organizations in Thailand. June 1, 2012—In her first visit outside her home country since 1988, Burmese democracy activist and member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi visited migrant worker communities in Samut Sakhon Province, where 300,000 of Thailand’s estimated 2.5 million Burmese migrant workers live and work.

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