Thursday, 26 April 2012

Challenges for the new migrant worker scheme and minimum wage increase

Mahidol University's Andy Hall has an op-ed on new the Thai-Myanmar intergovernmental plan to send 200,000 new Myanmar migrant workers to Thailand, which I reproduce here in full:
The Thai government seeks a deal with Myanmar to import 200,000 workers. But surely not until the lessons are learnt and the memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Myanmar becomes safe, cost effective, respects the human rights of migrants and contributes to genuine development of Myanmar. Whilst the MOU process is commendable as a measure to overcome challenges associated with irregular migration, both the Myanmar and Thai governments should urgently halt the process due to systematic rights violations so as to allow re-evaluation of the process to address the weaknesses in its existing implementation. Individuals/agents involved in the MOU process should be regulated through a transparent system of accountability, registration and supervision. Costs of the MOU process should be significantly reduced and Thai employers should bear financial responsibility rather than shifting the burden to workers, as required by the model employment contract. Effective recruitment of workers should be undertaken using public awareness raising in Myanmar and amongst existing Myanmar migrants and their communities in Thailand. Information campaigns for the general public and pre-departure training for departing migrants should be implemented to ensure workers understand employment contracts, costs and the general situation in Thailand. Workers' temporary passports, Thai work permits, Myanmar ID cards and Myanmar labour cards should not be confiscated by anyone, as these are the property of the worker. Migrants entering Thailand legally should not have their residence status tied only to one employer, and they should be allowed to change employers to prevent forced labour conditions arising. No restrictions should be placed on the freedom of movement of migrants legally coming into Thailand The MOU process should be made simpler and quicker to avoid long waiting time for migrants at borders, and alternatives to using border areas only should be considered to reduce cost and distance travelled. All workers should be given their employment contract in a language they understand, and its contents should be properly explained to them before signing. Myanmar should provide effective consular services to migrants in Thailand and advertise this assistance. Arrangements should be made between both countries to avoid multiple health checks. Once regular migration becomes more cost effective, comfortable and safer than irregular migration, only then will the aims of the MOU between Myanmar and Thailand be genuinely met. And only then should the MOU process recommence.
Separately, Phuket Wan a local news site based in Phuket, reports some interesting local tidbits related to the recent increase in Phuket's minimum wage to 300 baht/day:
Any serious disgruntlement among Phuket's estimated 200,000 Burmese workers is likely to surface on Monday, when monthly pay for all employees is due to reflect the new 300 baht daily minimum wage for the first time. Phuket and six Bangkok-centred provinces are pioneering the new national daily rate, which was introduced on April 1 and will spread to other provinces before 2013. ... If legal Burmese workers were free to change employers quickly, a drift could be expected from the neighboring provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi to better-paid employment on Phuket. However, contacts in the Burmese community say that it's not unusual for Burmese construction workers to already be paid 250 baht a day. No flow-on pay rise is expected in the Thai fishing industry, where human trafficking, slave labor and rights abuses are frequently reported. Kittipong Laonipong, Director of the Department of Labor Ptotection and Welfare on Phuket, said that illegal Burmese workers in other provinces could certainly be eyeing jobs on Phuket - but only if employers paid their illegal workers the new legal minimum. Police and Immigration officials would have to intervene and enforce the law if such a trend became discernable, he said. Many illegal workers on Phuket pay bribes to stay here. Htoo Chit, the region's spokesperson for Burmese workers, says he does not expect to see a rapid change in the relationship between Phuket employers and their workers. ''Many Burmese are delighted at the new approaches being shown by the government back in Burma,'' he said. ''But for most, there are not enough new jobs being created there to think about going back yet.''

No comments:

Post a Comment