Bosses urge delay in signing global labor-rights pacts


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Bosses urge delay in signing global labor-rights pacts
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A business lobby has urged the government to delay the endorsement of the International Labour Organization (ILO) workers’ rights covenants, claiming Thailand’s labor structure is undergoing reform and the country is not ready for such drastic changes.

The recommendation of the Joint Standing Committee for Commerce, Industry and Banking came after the ILO called for the universal ratification of Conventions 87 and 98 on the freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively by next year.

Convention 87 would give workers the right to establish or join organizations of their own choosing without authorization from any agency. Such organizations would have the right to affiliate with any international organization of workers and employers.

“From our survey of 4,000 operators, almost 100 per cent, especially members of the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, did not agree with the government signing the agreement for the ILO’s Conventions 87 and 98,” TCC chairman Isara Vongkusolkit said yesterday.

Business operators and the committee agreed that the country was reorganizing its foreign labor force, so it was not ready to adapt if local and foreign workers gained the right to form a union without consent from the government. Such a move might upset “national stability”, the bosses say.

Postponement of the signing would not have much effect on Thailand’s position within the ILO, since there are many other countries that have yet to sign, including South Korea, while Singapore is the only country in Asean that has signed Convention 98 – and still has not signed 87.

The ILO has 185 member states.

As for the government’s push for the country to become an international trading hub within the region, Isara said Thailand was ready but he agreed with Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula that it still needed to improve many tax and non-tax regulations, especially rules for the setting up businesses.

A one-stop service center is also needed for new business applications, work permits and visas, especially for high-level executives, he said. Requirements for work visas and temporary business visas should be relaxed to allow for a smoother transition.

The standing committee is preparing proposals for the amendment of regulations that will facilitate the country’s transition to a trading nation for the government to consider, he added.

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the country’s export sector might not expand at all this year because of the shaky recovery of major trading partners.

The current depreciation trend of the baht against the US dollar also does not really help the troubled sector since the Thai unit is still stronger than the currencies of other countries in the region.

Regarding the government’s plan to create a 50-billion-baht SME venture capital fund, that would be adequate to help provide small and medium-sized enterprises with more access to financing. But the government should be selective about which SMEs can access the fund, since they should be companies that are ready and have the potential at least to enter the Market for Alternative Investment in the future, Mr Supant said.

The Revenue Department should find ways to educate SMEs on basic accounting so that they would have enough information to submit to financial institutions when asking for loans, he said. This would provide them with easier access to funds.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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