AFG looks to the future

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The Automotive Focus Group (AFG) started off the year with a seminar held in the Holiday Inn, looking at the future of the auto industry in Thailand and comparing local results with ASEAN countries. The MC was President Frank Holzer (Tinfish) and the moderator, secretary Cary Peck (DHL).

It came as a surprise to most of the members that Vietnam, which had previously been touted as the big mover, had in actual fact gone down 7 percent in sales year on year and down 17 percent in production. Another country which had also shown a decrease in figures was Malaysia. Indonesia’s figures were stable, but the production was mainly for local use.

Some items in Thailand were showing a worrying trend, such as Mitsubishi Electric laying off 1,800 of the workforce and Poipet on the Cambodian/Thailand re-inventing itself as a manufacturing hub and levering its cheap labor costs.

With the Eastern Economic Corridor looking like a reality it was brought out that Thailand was still in the process of talks with the Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on the feasibility study of joint cooperation between the two countries in the development of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train project.

The talks have not yet touched on the investment aspect and Japan has not opted out of the project nor decided not to invest in the project, said the ministry in the statement, adding that the Japanese side is exploring a new form of investment which is appropriate and will cause less financial burden on the Thai government.

Regarding the speed of the high-speed train project in Thailand, the ministry said that although the standard speed of the Japanese train, Shinkansen, is 300 kph, both sides had concurred that the lowering of the speed of the train project in Thailand would not make any difference about the investment cost nor the number of stations.

It was, however, brought out that an increased time for the rail travel by going slower would bring rail into direct competition with the speed of air travel, with Thailand having a good infrastructure in that regard.

The hot topic of the evening was the New “Labour Protection Act (No. 6) B.E. 2560 (2017)” which has been legally effective from 1st Sept 2017. The main items here were the age for retiring for the workforce is now officially 60 years of age and is a fixed retirement age for all employees. Once the employee turns 60 they will be entitled to Severance Pay as under the new law, retirement will be considered as a form of job termination, requiring employers to compensate retiring employees. Consensus was that if a 60 year old employee wished to continue work and the employer was in agreement, then the time after 60 was the subject of a new contract which would not attract severance pay.

This was discussed in the lecture auditorium and continued in the Havana Bar networking.

The Thai cabinet endorsed the National Minimum Wage Committee’s proposed increase in the daily minimum wages by 5-22 baht to 308-330 baht to be effective as of April 1 in 77 provinces throughout the country.

The feeling of the meeting was such that the increase in the daily rate should be applied across all the workforce as higher paid workers would expect that they would be entitled to it, as well as workers being paid previously under 300 baht rate.

The next meeting will be held on the 23rd of March and contact can be made with the AFG through the president: [email protected]