Industrial Relations and Labour Policy Seminar in Thailand

JILAF held an industrial relations and labour policy seminar in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 14–15 jointly with the four Thai national centers1 affiliated with the Thai Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-TC) and with the participation of three Indistriall organizations.2 The seminar was attended by 75 trade union leaders from the participating organizations.

The main theme of the seminar was “The Role of Trade Unions in Response to Globalization and Establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community: The Importance of Building Constructive Industrial Relations.” From their respective standpoints, representatives from trade unions, the government, an employers’ organization, and academia gave presentations on such topics as the impact of globalization and countermeasures.

The JILAF lecture was titled “The Improvement of Employment and Living Conditions by Building Constructive Industrial Relations: The Postwar History of the Japanese Labour Movement and Characteristics of Labour-Management Relations in Japan.” After outlining an awareness of the situation, including the changes surrounding workers brought about by globalization, the JILAF speaker explained that the transformation and experience of industrial relations in Japan (the fostering of cooperation through labour-management consultations and harmonious negotiations through collective bargaining) was a useful reference for the stabilization of industrial relations in Asian countries, including multinational companies. Giving examples from his own experience, the speaker also emphasized the importance, among other things, of (1) basic organizational management based on revenue from union dues; (2) unionization and organization expansion, including informal-sector workers; (3) liaison among national centers and unification of the labour movement; and (4) sympathy for the movement from society and union members.

Next, Ms. Chotima, director of the ASEAN Secretariat in the Thai Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Trade Negotiations, delivered a special lecture on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), in which he outlined the basic principles of the AEC, the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), which are scheduled to be launched in December 2015 in accordance with the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as the efforts of the Thai government. In an interactive format, the speaker then went on to explain the effects and problems, as well as the Thai government’s strategy, arising from (1) the abolition of import tariffs, (2) the liberalization of services and lowering of investment barriers, and (3) liberalization of the movement of skilled labour (doctors, dentists, nurses, accountants, architects, surveyors, engineers, tourism) toward the realization through the AEC’s launch of a single market and single production center.

While one participant commented that “I was able to learn comprehensively about what direction ASEAN should be aiming for,” another participant gave the stern view that “Following the launch of the AEC, I am concerned that the Thai government will lean too much toward the pursuit of national interest and emphasis on investors and neglect workers even more than before.”

Professor Sakdina from Thammasat University then gave a lecture from the standpoint of labour titled “Globalization and the AEC: The Role of the Labour Movement,” in which he talked about such topics as differing industrial relations depending on the former suzerain country (generally speaking, weak entrenchment of democracy and the labour movement); the nine priority sectors in which trade will be liberalized following the AEC’s establishment (agro-based goods, fisheries, wood-based products, rubber-based goods, textiles and clothing, electronics goods, automobiles, healthcare, and ICT equipment); and concerns relating to the gradual liberalization of the movement of unskilled workers (difficulty of Thai workers to find jobs, lowering of wages, widening of disparities). From his standpoint as a scholar, the speaker also stated his opinions on promoting the integration and organization of a Thai labour movement capable of standing up to globalization (the estimated organization ratio in Thailand at present is 2.7%) and strategy for abandoning the dispute-oriented movement and creating a new movement that, while being more centralized and organized, also has the sympathy of society, including the importance of strengthening organizations through the training of union officials, establishing mutual-aid schemes, boosting industry-specific negotiating skills, and unifying the national centers.

There was a lively Q&A period, with participants asking about the relationship between price increases and the minimum wage (a uniform national rate of 300 baht/day), the present state of the labour movement in ASEAN countries, specific plans for the creation of a new labour movement, and issues relating to informal-sector workers.

In light of the above-mentioned lectures, the seminar ended with group discussions on the building of constructive industrial relations in an age of globalization and strengthening and development of the trade union movement and finally the compilation and presentation of action plans.

Notes:
1. Four national centers(NCs) affiliated with the ITUC-TC: State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC); Labour Congress of Thailand (LCT); Thai Trade Union Congress TTUC); National Congress of Private Industrial Employees (NCPE)

2. Organizations affiliated with Industriall: Thai Confederation of Electronic, Electrical Appliances, Auto and Metal Workers (TEAM); Textile and Garment Workers Federation of Thailand (TWFT); Automobile Labour Congress of Thailand (ALCT)

Schedule

DateContents
09/14SatIndustrial Relations and Labour Policy Seminar Day 1
09/15SunIndustrial Relations and Labour Policy Seminar Day 2

Photos of Participants

Lecture by JILAF

Lecture by the Thai Ministry of Commerce

Lecture by a professor of Thammasat University