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Factory workers

Individual Documents

Title: Flexible Labor in the Thai-Burma Border Economy
Date of publication: 2007
Description/subject: Capital Expansion and Migrant Workers... "...The research looks at the plight of Burmese migrant workers on the border between Thailand and Burma, in particular the town of Mae Sot. Mae Sot has become notorious for the amount, and severity of the human rights abuses. The research demonstrates that the changes to manufacturing, labour, and capital investment has led to a systematic erosion of labor rights. As argued in the thesis, labour rights are consistently sacrificed in order to attract and maintain investment, raising questions as to who are the primary beneficiaries of capitalist development. As Thailand and neighboring countries take further steps to increase border industrialization and development, labor standards are being pushed down both directly for the migrant workers employed in border industries, and often for domestic workers who are being forced to accept lower standards. The research examines the international economic context to the rise of Mae Sot as a manufacturing centre. It also looks at the groups involved in protecting workers rights, specifically the role of trade unions, and suggests that social and political organizing workers must be reignited in order to ensure their protection..."
Author/creator: Dennis Arnold
Language: English
Source/publisher: Office of Human Rights Studies and Social Development, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Mahidol University (Human Rights in Asia Series)
Format/size: pdf (520K)
Date of entry/update: 16 April 2008


Title: The Mekong Challenge - Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked: The realities of young migrant workers in Thailand: Vol. 2 (4) - The Manufacturing Sector
Date of publication: 13 December 2006
Description/subject: Conclusions: 4.1 Indications of labour exploitation While there are few outright cases of forced labour, 10% of migrant workers in manufacturing feel the fact their employer holds their documents is a constraint preventing them from leaving their job, while 9% feel the threat of the employer reporting them to the authorities also acts as a constraint preventing them from leaving their job... 4.2 Working conditions The most common form of abuse of migrant workers employed in manufacturing is working extremely long hours. A total of 7% of migrant workers have faced physical abuse from their employers. The average migrant worker employed in manufacturing is paid only about half of what they are entitled to when considering the standard minimum wages under the LPA and according to the time they actually work. Migrant workers often feel unable to bargain with their employers effectively or even know whom to contact to inform them about their rights at work because they do not speak Thai. Employers' associations and officials should address the issue of language barriers faced by migrants. Many employers do not take responsibility for workers who are badly injured on the job on the basis that the worker does not have a contract of employment. A major concern and challenge for the labour movement concerning migrant workers is the fact that they are not permitted to form unions, and in effect it is difficult for them to join Thai unions or to see the value in joining Thai unions which currently do not protect migrant workers' rights... 4.3 Legal status/Registration Employers highlighted a number of problems with the registration process, including the fact that officers responsible for the registration process are ill-prepared and the number of available officers is insufficient. The registration period of one year is viewed as not being long enough. Dissemination of information about the registration process by the Ministry of Labour is not sufficient. Employers waste a lot of their time and their workers' time going through the registration process. Many migrant workers continue to fear harassment or be actually harassed by the police even though they have a valid work permit. Employers faced corrupt police officers and in some cases paid up to 10,000 baht per undocumented migrant they hire to police officers in order to avoid prosecution... 4.4 Support mechanisms Many migrant workers are less likely than Thais to access state-healthcare services due to their isolation, language barriers and a lack of information.
Language: English, Thai
Source/publisher: International Labour Organisation
Format/size: pdf (English - 289K; Thai - 301K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/vol2-manufacturin...
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008


Title: EXPLOITATION IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS: BURMESE MIGRANT WORKERS IN MAE SOT, THAILAND
Date of publication: September 2005
Description/subject: CONCLUSIONS As outlined, the situation in Mae Sot makes it difficult for organisations to operate effectively in support of Burmese workers. In mid-2004 there were no Thailand-based organisations working specifically on labour issues in Tak. As we have shown, migrant workers are in a vulnerable situation and greater organisational and protection efforts are needed. This organisational and political weakness is in stark contrast to that of employers who enjoy the support of the state. This imbalance makes it difficult for workers to organise to protect or promote their rights. The handful of Burmese organisations attempting to assist workers is limited because of their problematic legal status in Thailand and the intimidation prevents them from operating without fear of reprisals. Structural factors promote the exploitation and human rights violations of Burmese migrant labourers. Burmese leave Burma due to political oppression and socio-economic hardship, and subsequently have a high threshold for the difficulties they endure in Thailand. Thai authorities and employers, regardless of nationality, are eager to exploit this vulnerability in their effort to maximise profits. A lack of corporate social responsibility and adherence to corporate codes of conduct means workers at the bottom of the supply chain, in places such as Mae Sot, produce textiles and garments and other products for developed country markets in a state of constant exploitation and oppression. It is obvious that Burmese migrant workers in Thailand face a myriad of human rights issues in Thailand and Burma. Denying the freedom to organise effectively undermines any attempts by migrant workers to improve their situation. The policy of the Thai government towards Burmese refugees and migrants is changing. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s government has forged closer economic and political ties with the Burmese junta and this has involved an increasingly hard-line stance towards Burmese migrants and refugees. Some million and a half Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are now stuck between one the most brutal military dictatorships in the world, and a Thai government intent on maintaining good relations. While the Thai government trumpets “constructive engagement,” there is no doubt that the government’s attitude is driven by business interests. It is worth noting that the traditional gap between migrant support organisations and workers, and Thai labour organisations has been reduced over the last year or so. This, in combination with greater advocacy for migrant rights – by Thailand’s Human Rights Commission, international and global trade unions, academics in Thailand and the region, governments and human and labour rights organisations both in the region and internationally – is creating space and the potential for greater transparency and respect for labour rights and adherence to labour laws and standards. It may enhance the ability of migrant workers to organise and improve work conditions, but the struggle will still be a long and difficult one.
Author/creator: Dennis Arnold, Kevin Hewison
Language: English
Source/publisher: Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 35 No. 3, 2005, pp. 319-340.
Format/size: pdf (145K)
Date of entry/update: 08 October 2005


Title: The Price of Exploitation
Date of publication: October 2004
Description/subject: "Thai factory owners face huge claims after judge rules for Burmese migrants. About 200 Thai factories employing migrant Burmese workers are braced to meet compensation claims amounting to many millions of dollars following the success of a legal action brought by 18 employees in Thailand’s Tak Province. The Burmese migrants were awarded a total of 1,170,000 baht (US $29,250) in compensation for unpaid back wages owed by their employer, the Nut Knitting Ltd Partnership in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese border. The Tak Labor Court decision was hailed as a “landmark” by Moe Swe, director of the Mae Sot-based Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, which backs Burmese migrant workers in their fight with Thai employers for proper wages and working conditions..."
Author/creator: Colin Baynes
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 12, No. 9
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 11 November 2004


Title: The Situation of Burmese Migrant Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand
Date of publication: September 2004
Description/subject: CONCLUSION: As briefly outlined, the situation in Mae Sot makes it difficult for Burmese worker support organisations to operate effectively. As late as mid-2004 there were no Thailand-based labour organisations or trade unions working specifically on labour or trade union rights in Tak with an office and staff located there on a full time basis. The workers themselves are in an extremely vulnerable situation and greater organisational and protection efforts are needed. This organisational and political weakness is in stark contrast to that of the authorities, police and employers. This imbalance makes it difficult for workers to organise to protect and promote their rights. The handful of Burmese organisations attempting to assist workers is limited because of their problematic legal status in Thailand and the intense pressure preventing them from operating without fear of reprisal. Structural factors promote the gross exploitation and human rights violations of Burmese migrant labourers in Mae Sot. Burmese leave Burma due to political oppression and socio-economic hardship, and subsequently have a high threshold for difficulties they endure in Thailand. Thai authorities and employers, regardless of nationality, are eager to exploit this vulnerability for windfall profits. A lack of corporate social responsibility and adherence to corporate codes of conduct means workers at the bottom of the supply chain, in places such as Mae Sot, produce textiles and garments and other products for Northern markets in a state of acute vulnerability. It’s obvious that migrant workers in Thailand, particularly the Burmese, bear a lot of pressure from nearly every direction, both in Burma and Thailand. A myriad of human rights are abused in both systematic and random ways. Denying the right to freedom of association and right to organise effectively pulls out any attempts by migrant workers to improve their situation at the roots. The policy of the Thai government towards Burmese refugees and migrants is in the process of changing, for better or worse remains to be seen. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s forging of closer economic and political ties with the Burmese government has resulted in an increasingly hard-line stance by Thailand towards Burmese migrant workers and refugees, many of the latter have become migrant workers. Some million and a half Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are now stuck between one the most brutal military dictatorship in the world, and a Thai government intent on good relations with them, with an eye on increased revenue for businessmen operating in Thailand, and for Thai business operating in Burma. It is worth noting that the traditional gap between migrant support organisations and workers, and Thai unions and labour organisations has been reduced over the last year or so. This, in combination with greater advocacy for migrant rights – by Thailand’s Human Rights Commission, international and global trade unions, academics in Thailand and the region, governments and human and labour rights organisations both in the region and internationally – is creating space and the potential for greater transparency and respect for labour rights and adherence to labour laws and standards. It also enhances the ability of migrant workers to organise and improve work conditions."
Author/creator: Dennis Arnold
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Southeast Asia Research Centre (SEARC) of the City University of Hong
Format/size: pdf (294K)
Date of entry/update: 08 October 2005