Thai Life

Mind Matters: Providing a safety net for Patong workers

PHUKET: When I moved into the condo I rented last year, I paid a security deposit in addition to the first month’s rent. The purpose of a security deposit is twofold. If a renter damages the dwelling, money paid from the deposit covers the costs of repair. Second, if a renter breaks the lease and the landlord is forced to look for a new tenant, the deposit covers the costs incurred by the landlord when the room is vacant. The security deposit is a way to ensure that a tenant holds up his or her end of the bargain by leaving the premises in good condition and at the appointed time, or suffers a consequence for failing to do so.

When a buyer contracts to purchase land or real estate, he or she pays earnest money which is held in escrow. The purpose of that money, which is then applied against the purchase price, is to ensure that if the buyer reneges on the obligation to buy, the seller will be compensated for the loss of the sale and the obligation not to sell the property during the escrow period.

A surety is a guarantee by a third party to pay another party’s “debt” if that second party fails to meet a contractual obligation. Often this situation arises in the construction industry, when a contractor agrees to do something and a bank guarantees the contractor’s performance.

Hold on. There’s a point here.

Recently, some French acquaintances of mine, who knew I had lived in France, asked me if I preferred living in Thailand, France or my native country, the United States. I answered unhesitatingly: Thailand. The reasons are not relevant here, but despite my preference for Thailand there are things here that bother me. One of them is that there appears to be very few protections for workers.

In the US, employment situations vary a great deal, but generally there are laws which prohibit employers from arbitrarily dismissing employees and sanctions to impel employers to meet pecuniary obligations they incur. France is an extreme example of employee favoritism in which it is very difficult to fire even the worst employees.

I was sitting at my favorite bar on Bangla Road in Patong playing Connect Four with one of the dancers the other day when a man who had been appointed by the foreign owner to oversee the bar in his absence excused himself, and asked to speak with my playing partner. He spoke with her for about a minute, got up and left and our game then resumed. As we were playing, she told me that the man had informed her that the bar was closing that night and that she was not being paid for the past month’s work. As I looked at some of the other employees, I noticed tears in their eyes, as they had obviously
received the same news. No notice; no compensation.

This is unfair, but there is a solution. The owners of the bars, massage parlors and other service facilities in Patong should have to make a bank deposit when they purchase or rent their businesses. The money would be put aside as a guarantee of payment to the employees when the facility ceases operations. Like a surety or security deposit, those employees would then have a safety net that they desperately need and deserve.

— Patrick Mattimore

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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