As a part of an ongoing lawsuit, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) urged the Thai government to adhere to a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights pledge to amend laws that violate the rights of migrant workers hired by Thailand’s state-owned enterprise.
On 16-17 November 2022, staff from HRDF offered legal assistance to 16 migrant workers from Myanmar in a lawsuit against the Phuket Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare labour inspector.
The case stemmed from a Phuket Provincial Electricity Authority construction contractor’s failure to comply with the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541. The lawsuit alleges failure to pay the workers their wages and raises other subcontract employment issues.
Workers contend that the construction project which was won by a joint venture with a bid of 210 million baht, was subcontracted out. According to an HRDF investigation, the subcontractor violated labour rights by failing to pay wages for their work from 22 June to August 2022.
With help from HRDF, the workers submitted a complaint to the Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare on 17 November 2022. They requested that the labour inspector summon the joint venture companies and hold them accountable for violating Section 12 of the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541.
The provision stipulates that when an employer is a subcontractor, contractors shall be liable for subcontractor actions. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that the contractor shall be held liable for wages and compensation for the employees.
On 9 January 2023, a representative of the joint venture (the contractor) asked for a chance to negotiate and settle with the employees. They also placed money for wage with the labour inspector. After examining the details of the outstanding wage and the settlement, HRDF staff went to the Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare, agreeing on 16 January to receive the outstanding wages in the amount of 98,200 baht.
According to HRDF, the government has to adopt a policy to ensure workplaces or businesses respect, promote and protect human rights including the human rights of the workers and migrant workers in keeping with the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. Several state agencies have reportedly failed to adhere to the policy.
Section 8 of the Public Procurement and Supplies Administration Act, B.E. 2560 (2017) stipulates that procurement and supplies administration by a state agency must generate optimal benefits to the state agency and must conform with the principles of value for money, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness and accountability in the procurement process.
However, the legislation does not stipulate due diligence in the matter of human rights, giving rise to cases of labour rights violations, particularly among the migrant workers employed in state construction projects or as state enterprise cleaners (read here and here).
Therefore, HRDF urges the Thai government to adopt a clear policy to encourage state agencies and state enterprises to respect, promote, and protect human rights, particularly the labour rights of Thai and migrant workers. Stringent supervision measures must be put in place to ensure employers who supply, procure, and are hired or subcontracted by state agencies act in strict compliance with the labour protection law.