Migrant Workers Strike Over Conditions, Low Wages

 | Fri 5 Sep 2014 23:14 ICT

CityNews – Migrant workers on a Chiang Mai building site downed tools last week, saying they were being paid less than the minimum wage and had not received documentation they had paid for.

Many migrant workers are employed on building sites in Chiang Mai. Photo: Francis Wilmer.

According to the MAP Foundation, which assists migrants, 36 labourers went on strike at a building site near Canal Road. Five were Shan and the rest Burmese. CityNews is withholding the name of the construction company for legal reasons.

The undocumented workers said they agreed with the company earlier this year that 15,000 baht would be deducted from their salaries so they could apply for passports and work permits, which they haven’t received.

After the May 22 coup, the military government announced that it would open one-stop centres where migrant workers could get temporary permits. The company angered the workers by saying they would have to pay again to register under the new system.

They were also unhappy at being paid just 170 baht a day, Map Foundation director Brahm Press said. The minimum wage is 300 baht a day.

This kind of “blatant cheating in paying wages” is common in Chiang Mai, according to Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

He called on the local office of the Ministry of Labour to immediately investigate the situation, protect the workers and hold the employer accountable.

The labourers are reportedly now back at work, and the MAP Foundation has urged them to provide more information if they want to pursue the case.

“Burmese migrant workers in Chiang Mai face a continuous barrage of abuses from Thai employers,” said Robertson. “Based on Human Rights Watch’s past research about migrant workers’ plight in Thailand, I expect that a longer conversation with these workers would also likely uncover unsafe and dangerous workplaces and retaliatory actions by managers against any workers brave enough to complain.

“And as soon as the cameras turn off and the media attention goes away, these striking workers could face a range of even more serious abuses ranging from firings to physical abuse for going on strike to demand their rights.”