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Parliament yesterday (6 March) rejected one of the Move Forward Party’s labour protection bills, which proposed to limit working hours and require an annual wage increase, but accepted another MFP bill proposing to extend parental leave from 98 to 180 days.

Union members holding pamphlets about MFP's bill during the gathering on 28 February in front of parliament.

Proposed by union leader-turned-MP Sia Jampatong, the first bill would limit the work week to 40 hours or 5 days per week and mandate an annual minimum wage increase. Workers would be given a mandatory 2 days off per week and be paid overtime for any hours worked that exceeded the legal limit. They would be allowed to take up to 15 days off to care for family members or other close relations. It would also re-define employment to include independent workers, freelancers, and platform workers like food delivery riders, so that all would be protected under the labour law.

Representatives of the Labour Network for People’s Right and 95 labour unions gathered at parliament last week (28 February) to show support for the bill, saying that existing laws are outdated and ignore new forms of employment. Changing the labour protection laws is therefore important to protecting workers’ rights, guaranteeing fair employment, and improving their quality of life.

Sia said during the parliamentary debate that the MFP was proposing the amendments to improve the quality of life for workers, which would make them more productive. He said that if workers in Thailand were securely employed, people would not have to move to big cities or other countries to find work.

He noted that under the first bill, every profession would be seen as work, from food delivery riders and cleaners to massage therapists and artists. It would protect the rights of everyone and give them more time to live their lives.

Parliament voted to 149 to 252 to reject Sia’s bill, while voting unanimously to pass another labour protection bill proposed by the Bhumjaithai Party, which extends the protection under labour laws to government employees and allows couples to divide the 98-day parental leave.

Sia Jampatong (second from right) receiving an open letter from representatives of the Labour Network for People's Rights and 95 labour unions showing support for the bill on 28 February.

Sia said he was saddened by the rejection, since the bill would improve workers’ lives and bring labour protection in Thailand into line with international standards. He felt that the country is missing out on the opportunity to create social equality and creativity, as well as increasing its economic value. Meanwhile, Thai workers are deprived of the same labour protection as in developed countries.

He said he was disappointed that MPs are ignoring the workers in favour of capitalists and business owners who would be affected by the amendments MFP proposed, and that they rejected the bill even though it only calls for the minimum that every person deserves.

Nevertheless, Sia said he will continue to push for laws that improve workers’ quality of life, noting that the MFP is also planning to propose amendments to the Labour Relations Act and the Social Security Act.

Parliament also voted during the same session to pass the first reading of another labour protection bill proposed by MFP MP Wanvipa Maison, with 394 votes for, 1 abstention, and 1 no vote.

The bill proposed to extend parental leave from 98 to 180 days which can be divided between parents. It also proposed to extend its protection to civil servants.

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