Child labour, forced labour, trade union rights violations and gender discrimination are all still prevalent in Thailand, according to global union body, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

In a new report on Thailand, produced to coincide with the WTO review of Thai trade policy this week, ICFTU has highlighted continued violations of core international labour conventions which Thailand has ratified and calls on the authorities to respect these standards.

The ICFTU report notes regular violations of freedom of association. Although trade union rights are recognised by law, in practice there is little protection against anti-union discrimination. Furthermore government regulations prohibit civil servants from forming unions.

The report criticises Thailand’s Labour Code, which severely restricts the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike. A revised version of the Labour Act would further weaken those rights by giving the Labour Minister the power to impose arbitration and to end any labour dispute by decree. The Labour Minister would also have the authority to order unions not to demand wage rises – and employers not to pay them.

According to the report, women suffer extensive discrimination in employment and pay. Women receive lower pay for equal work in virtually every sector of the economy, concentrated in lower paid jobs and with less access to education. Their literacy rate is much lower than that of men. Migrant workers, many of whom work for low pay in sweatshop conditions, also suffer from discrimination.

Child labour is prevalent in Thailand, including the worst forms of child labour. Many children work on family farms or illegally in urban areas, mainly in the service sector. They are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. Many child workers come from neighbouring countries, working as domestic workers or in prostitution.

Forced labour is prohibited by law but does occur in Thailand. Examples include the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution or domestic work and the existence of debt bondage, where sometimes whole families are held in indentured servitude.

The ICFTU report calls on the Thai government to take a series of measures in order to comply with internationally recognised core labour standards. These include measures to effectively protect freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike. The current government’s ongoing changes to legislation, which further restrict these rights, must be halted. Determined action is needed to improve the position of women through greater access to education and less wage discrimination. The government must continue work with the ILO to effectively address the problem of child labour. The government needs to make further efforts to eliminate bonded labour and trafficking of women and children.

The ICFTU represents 158 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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