The Thai government must reconsider and immediately revoke discriminatory regulations preventing migrant workers access to a workers compensation fund, insist a string of Thai civil society groups.
Currently migrant workers in Thailand live and work amidst seriously degrading conditions. Thailand is currently under the spotlight of the international community and facing severe criticism for its treatment of migrant workers. The international community is seriously concerned that Thailand continues to neglect migrant workers, allowing them to fall victim to serious human rights violations, including a denial of access to the Social Security Office’s (SSO) Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF) following work accidents.
The WCF was established in accordance with the Workmen’s Compensation Act (WCA) 1994. The purpose of the WCF is clearly stated as a system to protect all “workers” working for an employer, whatever their nationality or immigration status. The WCA 1994 clearly lays down conditions, systems and procedures for paying work accident compensation to all “workers” who experience accidents, are disabled or die at work. The WCA 1994 also clearly provides penalties for those who fail to comply with this law. However, when its comes to assisting injured workers and their relatives following work accidents, government officials seem to be turning away from the stated aims of the WCF, in breach of the law. The rights of many workers are currently being denied.
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All migrant workers are “workers” and must receive equal protection to Thai workers. These “equality” and “non-discrimination” standards are provided for in Thailand’s labour laws and in Thailand’s existing Constitution. In addition, several United Nations and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, which the Thai Government has ratified, demand that all countries respect universal standards of equality and non-discrimination.
In reality, however, migrant workers in Thailand are denied many basic human and labour rights, and standards of equality and non-discrimination are not being applied. The fact migrant workers currently are not able to enter into the WCF provides one clear example. The Ministry of Labour’s (MoL) SSO continues to cite a circular notice (RS 0711/W751, issued on 25 October 2001) regarding protection of migrant workers who incur an accident at work to deny migrants access to the WCF. This circular notice states that if migrant workers are to access work accident compensation from the WCF they must fulfil all of the following conditions:
(1) Migrant workers must possess a work permit;
(2) Migrant workers must possess a passport or alien identification documents;
(3) Employers of migrant workers must pay a dividend into the WCF: and
(4) Migrant workers must pay taxes like all ordinary Thai citizens.
If migrant workers cannot fulfill any of the above conditions, responsibility to pay work accident compensation is transferred to their employer. Evidence shows clearly however that most migrant workers do not currently access this work accident compensation from their employers. Migrant workers do not therefore currently access rights provided to them, according to the law, from the WCF. Currently, over 2 million migrant workers in Thailand are not able to access the WCF. SSO continues to deny these rights even though most migrants in Thailand already have two formal ID documents (the Tor 38/1 form and a work permit) issued by the Ministries of Interior and Labour.
In recent times, the MoL and other related officials have tried to solve these problems by announcing plans to set up a special compensation fund to pay work accident compensation to migrant workers. This fund will apparently be managed by a private life insurance company. These plans are unlawful and not in accordance with the spirit and goals of all labour protection laws in Thailand, the WCA 1994 itself and also the Thai Constitution. These plans are also clearly in breach of international law and international labour and human rights standards laid down by the ILO and United Nations.
The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and international labour organisations in Thailand therefore demand the following:
1. The government must now reconsider and immediately revoke discriminatory regulations preventing migrant workers access to the SSO’s WCF;
2. The government must urgently strategise, together with government officials, labour unions, NGOs and migrant workers themselves, to solve problems currently faced by migrant workers to ensure they can access rights provided to them under the WCF;
3. The government must immediately revoke all plans to set up a special compensation fund to pay work accident compensation to migrant workers given that such plans are in breach of both Thai and international laws.
- State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC)
- Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
- Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC)
- International Transport Federation (ITF) THAILAND
- Public Services International (PSI) THAILAND
- International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union (ICEM) Thailand
- International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) Thailand
- UNI Thailand
- Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Thailand
- Rangsit Area Union Group
- Eastern Area Union Group
- Project for Development of the Lives of Migrants and Status Challenges Persons
- US Committee for Refugees and Immigration (USCRI)
- Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)