Labour Day celebrations amidst scepticism over political promises

As Labour Day is celebrated in the country today, activists have voiced scepticism over political parties’ campaign promises to increase minimum daily wages to seemingly unrealistic levels.

For example, the Pheu Thai Party has vowed to raise the minimum wage to a flat rate of 600 baht, while the Move Forward Party has pledged to increase it to 450 baht per day throughout all provinces. The current minimum daily wage in Bangkok is 353 baht, with Chon Buri workers receiving 354 baht per day, and those in other provinces earning lower amounts.

Similar promises were made by multiple parties during the previous General Election campaign. The ruling Palang Pracharath Party pledged to raise the daily wage to a range of 400 to 425 baht, a promise that remains unfulfilled. At that time, Pheu Thai had assured voters of a 400 baht per day increase.

Sanguan Khunsong, the leader of a workers’ group from factories in Om Noi in Samut Sakhon and Om Yai in Nakhon Pathom, said…

“None of these parties has ever truly supported labour groups’ campaigns for a realistic wage increase, yet they are now promising workers an absurd minimum rate.” She added that these promises are solely being made to secure election victories.

Furthermore, she pointed out that none of the parties have addressed the inevitable rise in consumer product prices that would follow an across-the-board increase in incomes. Wichai Naraphaibun, the manager of the Thai Labour Museum, stated that while he supports proposals to raise the rate, he is doubtful that the country’s industrial infrastructure will see significant improvement any time soon.

Based on his observations of the parties campaigning for the May 14 election, he expressed scepticism about their ability to improve the situation.

“Even the Yingluck Shinawatra government, which enacted the promised policy of raising the daily wage to 300 baht when it won the previous election, did not contribute to the nation’s industrial infrastructure.”

Wichai highlighted technology, research, and innovation as crucial factors for development, as evidenced by countries with high wages, such as South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. He believes that Pheu Thai is unlikely to fulfill its 600-baht minimum wage promise, and will blame that failure on coalition partners’ lack of support.

Chanthip Loet-hathakan, an activist working with a network of workers in the informal economy, reported that some consumer product prices have already risen since the policy was announced. Nonetheless, Ekaporn Rakkwamsuk, a Pheu Thai list candidate, maintained that the pledge is feasible, asserting that the party has other policies aimed at transforming Thailand into a “digital country” by 2027 and achieving at least 5% annual GDP growth. He said…

“By then, every worker will earn at least 600 baht a day, and the entire family will be guaranteed at least 20,000 baht a month.”

Suthep Ou-oun, a Move Forward Party list candidate, stated that in addition to the one-time increase to 450 baht, the party plans to raise the minimum wage annually. In the long term, the party aims to shift from daily wages to monthly incomes as part of its overall strategy to establish a welfare state.

Manit Promkarikul of the United Thai Nation Party revealed the party’s intention to establish a national chain of “labour banks” that would enable workers under the social security system to use contributions paid into their retirement fund as collateral when applying for loans. Manas Kosol, president of the Confederation of Thai Labour and leader of the Nation Building Labour Party, emphasised the importance of fair employment laws to secure workers’ welfare.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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