Garment workers’ issues ironed out


Garment workers in Thailand who were illegally underpaid while making products for major brands are set to receive compensation worth about three million baht (RM402,900) from the factory owner and companies.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation in September 2019 found that dozens of migrants

from Myanmar working at several factories in the western region of Mae Sot were paid less than the daily minimum wage of 310 baht (RM41.30).

A group of 26 workers at one of the factories raided last year by officials sued the owner, Kanlayanee Ruengrit, in August for failing to pay over three million baht owed to them.

The workers agreed on a settlement this month worth one million baht (RM134,300), according to Jirarat Moonsiri, a lawyer from the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) who represented the migrants.

Kanlayanee – who closed her business following the raid – could not be reached for comment.

“It was clear this was the maximum amount the owner could offer, which is why the workers agreed to accept, ” said Jirarat.

Interviews with workers by NGOs found that they were making goods for companies.

The brands said her factory had been subcontracted by their suppliers or partners without permission.

Some of the companies involved this week confirmed that the workers would receive compensation – either directly or via the brands’ suppliers which sourced from Kanlayanee’s factory.

“The case shows that at the end of the day, brands are not able to deny their responsibility (for workers), ” said a coordinator of a foundation which supports workers and has been in discussion with the firms.

Last year, labour ministry official Somboon Trisilanun said Mae Sot – which is part of a special economic zone – was a “black hole” as many factories there were hard to inspect.

HRDF and MAP Foundation estimated that less than a dozen factories paid minimum wage based on research and interviews in the

area.

“If brands took responsibility for their supply chains, these 26 workers would not have faced such extreme hardship as they fought for their rights, ” said a global pressure group coordinator. — Reuters

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