KARON: About 14,000 workers have been laid off from Phuket hotels in the wake of the tourism industry downturn, Yaowalak Yangyean, Chief of Phuket Social Security Office, told the Gazette today. Other workers have been told to take more days off each month. With tourist arrivals in Thailand reported to be 76% down this May on the same month last year, more cutbacks are expected in June as low vacancy rates in Phuket and other resorts flow through to hotel services and suppliers. Cabinet, meeting in Phuket yesterday, heard plans for schemes to retrain some of the laid off workers in other occupations. K. Yaowalak said that most of the layoffs were among casual staff and short-term staff. Some of the staff who were laid off had returned to their home towns in other provinces. She hoped that the effects of the Sars scare would pass quickly and that the jobs situation would improve rapidly. Somkuan Sakultaewanpitak, Officer of Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Protection and Welfare, told the Gazette that he was seeking adequate compensation for staff who had lost their jobs. Labor and Social Welfare Minister, Suwat Liptapanlop, told a media conference during the Cabinet visit that unemployment in Thailand had reached 900,000 but that this was a small number compared to neighboring countries. Meanwhile, a one-stop service is to be established within months at a cost of 66 million baht to assist Thais who wish to work abroad. The Labor and Social Welfare Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Public Health Ministry will get together to make medical checks, the issue of passports and visas and checks on criminal background more straightforward.
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