Laid-off garment factory workers demand severance pay

Workers laid off from three garment production companies marched from the Democracy Monument to Government House today (5 March) to demand severance pay. They asked the government to cover the severance and press charges against the companies.

The workers marchingt through Ratchadamnoen Road.

The workers were formerly employed by Alpha Spinning, AMC Spinning, and Body Fashion garment production companies. A total of over 1400 workers were laid off by the three companies.

 

The workers issued a statement saying that, since 2019, Body Fashion has laid off 1,174 people. In June 2023, Alpha Spinning laid off 132 people and AMC Spinning laid off another 153 people. None of the workers received severance from their former employers, and the Ministry of Labour was not able to demand that the companies pay the severance as required by the Labour Protection Law. The workers estimated that their former employers now owe them around 279 million baht.

 

The statement noted that the workers met with representatives of the Ministry of Labour on 22 December 2023, after two days of protest.  Ministry representatives promised to ask the Cabinet to allocate an emergency budget to cover worker compensation until the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare raises money paid into the Employee Fund by those who were laid off and did not receive severance.

 

The authorities reportedly did not follow through on their promises, however. The Ministry did not press charges against the company and did not try to ensure that the workers were paid. The labour minister also reportedly did not follow the government’s policy to strictly enforce labour laws.

 

The workers demand that the government cover their severance at the rate ordered by the labour inspection officer. They also want the government to press charges against the companies to make them return any money the government spends on the severance to show that labour rights violators in Thailand cannot act with impunity.

 

A Body Fashion worker told iLaw that, for the past five years, workers have filed complaints with the Ministry of Labour, parliament, and the Labour Court but have not been paid, even though the court ordered their former employer to compensate them. Many workers were reportedly also not prepared to become unemployed in a society where older people have difficulty finding employment.

The workers facing off with crowd control police by Government House (Photo from Workers' Union)

After facing a police blockade on Chamai Maruchet Bridges, the workers wait throughout the afternoon. At around 17.40, 10 representatives met with government representatives for a negotiation. At around 20.10, the rest of the workers attempted to break through the blockade, but were blocked by units of crowd control police.

Thanaporn Wichan, an activist from the Labour Network for People’s Rights, said that the workers tried to get pass the police because the negotiation was taking a long time and they were concerned about the safety of their representatives. She noted that the negotiation ended at around 18.00, but they had to wait an hour for a record of the discussion to be issued.

According to the document, the Office of the Permanent Secretary will be following up with agencies responsible for prosecuting the three companies. Somkid Chuakong, the Prime Minister's deputy secretary-general, will also be working with relevant ministries to place an urgent request to the Cabinet to allocate budget to cover the workers' severance.

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