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Thailand: Workers march from Rayong for fair treatment

The Nation 10 February 2011- Some 2,000 workers are traveling from Rayong to Bangkok on foot to demand fair treatment from their employers.

"We will march to the Labour Ministry for a serious round of negotiation," Maxxis International (Thailand) labour union's chairman Chairat Bussara said yesterday. The workers started the march on February 1.

According to Chairat, Maxxis had made a profit of Bt1.56 billion in 2009, yet it was cutting down workers' welfare. On November 25, it stopped giving its 2,500 workers any shifts on the pretext that its machines were out of order. However, the workers soon discovered that their employer had hired alien and sub-contracted workers instead.

Chairat said the union had already spoken to the company's executives a dozen times, but with no satisfactory results.

"They offered to rehire the workers, but only if they agreed to allow their benefits to be cut. The conditions offered means that the workers' monthly income would be cut by about half," he said.

For instance, workers will no longer get overtime, no Bt3,000 to Bt10,000 monthly bonus for diligence, or the Bt700 travel allowance. "Housing allowance would also be cut from Bt800 to Bt600 a month," he said, adding that these benefits would stay at this level for at least three years.

Joining the march were workers from PCB Centre, which manufactures electronic circuits. The company hired more than 500 workers before the explosion of a hot-press machine killed three employees and injured many others on June 23 last year. After the incident, the company closed down for repairs and promised to pay its workers 75 per cent of their salaries until the factory could start operating again in December. However, the payment was often delayed, and on January 24, PCB Centre terminated employment without any severance pay.

Chairat said the protest leaders would meet representatives of their companies at the Labour Ministry today for negotiations.

"For Maxxis International, we want the company to rehire workers under proper conditions," he said, adding that PCB Centre, meanwhile, should pay severance pay to its workers and provide compensation for those injured or killed.

"We also urge the government to seriously enforce laws for the protection of workers. Don't let foreign investors take advantage of Thai workers," he said. A Taiwanese investor owns Maxxis International (Thailand).

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