Special Report: Unions calls for more worker justice on labour day

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A number of labour unions are planning to submit petitions proposing amendments to the current Labour Law on National Labour Day, taking place every year on May 1. 

Having long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist groups, International Workers’ Day or Labour Day is a national holiday for workers in many countries around the world. Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on all social democratic party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour working day. The congress made it mandatory upon the proletarian organizations to stop work on May 1.

In Thailand, Labour Day is observed as a holiday by most of the private sector as a way to honor the economic and social achievements of Thai workers. The National Labour Day in Thailand was first held in 1947 and was recognized by the Prime Minister’s office as a holiday for workers in 1956.

The history of the Thai labour movement evolved from the apparent lack of government policy on labour in the early 1920’s to the formation of the first labour union, The Thai Tram Workers Association. Since then, the country’s economic policy has included registration of the unemployed and recognition of Thai workers’ rights.

Thai labour today are still facing a host of issues such as a fair enforcement of the new daily minimum wage, the privatization of state enterprises and the workers’ safety.

On Labour Day this year, the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) will hold a demonstration to declare its nine-point objectives which will include the social security reform, revision of employees’ provident fund, and severance packages and amendments to the 1999 Corporatisation Act.

Wilaiwan Saetia, vice president of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, said that in addition to engaging pro-active measures to curb inflation and the rising cost of living, the government needs to implement changes to modernize and reform the Social Security system in the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Chaiyaporn Chantana, chairman of the Labor Congress Freedom of Thailand, or LCFT, who is this year in charge of an organizing committee for the Labor Day celebration, said the Labor Ministry approved a budget of 5.1 million baht to organize the event. Accompanied by 9 elephants, workers from 13 unions and 2 state-enterprises will form a procession marching down Ratcha Damnoen Avenue to the main stage at Sanam Luang at 9 AM, where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will preside over the opening ceremony.