Myanmar Workers Win ‘Unprecedented’ Backpay From Cannery Factory

Workers on strike Friday outside a Golden Prize Canning factory in Samut Sakhon province. Photo: Courtesy Andy Hall / Migrant Workers Rights Network

SAMUT SAKHON — After a strike involving more than 1,000 workers, a cannery firm in Samut Sakhon province agreed yesterday to pay more than 100 million baht in withheld pay, a concession that one activist described as “unprecedented.”

Approximately 1,600 workers, mostly Myanmar nationals, at Golden Prize Canning Ltd. will also receive most of a 2013 minimum wage increase they never received, according to labor activist Andy Hall, who works with the migrant rights organization assisting the workers. 

“The amount of money is very large. Usually, this kind of dispute doesn’t end like this,” Hall told Khaosod English on Tuesday. “In this case, the document is very clear. It was signed by the managers, and looked over by the governor and the military.”

Cannery Row Strike Wins Pay Promise for Workers

The factory management agreed to pay 65 percent of the total amount of money owed to the workers, with each worker to receive around 55,000 to 82,000 baht, Hall said. 

He estimated that the total sum of compensation paid out by Golden Prize Canning will reach 100 million baht.

About 200 Thai employees had also demanded overtime pay they were denied. 

Hall said Golden Prize already started paying out some of the money, but it will take some time before every worker gets his or her share of payment, because of the sum involved. The management also promised to pay the withheld overtime to the Thai workers on Friday, Hall said.

More than 1,100 workers at Golden Prize factory went on strike on Thursday, demanding the firm pay the wage increase they had never received since the government approved the national wage hike in 2013. 

Strike organizers also alleged other unfair practices at the factory in Samut Sakhon, such as the refusal to grant sick leave to workers, even those who provided medical certificates as evidence.

Due to the scale of the protest, the workers drew immediate attention from the military government and local authorities. Golden Prize eventually pledged to pay the workers during negotiations held Friday, ending the strike immediately.

Although Hall said he applauded the workers’ victory, he lamented the incident also showed workers can not rely on proper legal channels to satisfy grievances. 

According to Hall, the workers and the organizations assisting them appealed for help from the government, labor authorities and the canned food trade federation for a year to no avail, leaving them with no choice but to call the strike.

“The legal process failed. We tried to use the rule of law last year, but it failed. We tried using the complaint channel to the federation, but it failed” Hall said. “We are glad that puu yai are now involved in this, but it’s clear that the normal procedures do not function.” 

The activist also attributed success at Golden Prize to the solidarity and resilience shown by Myanmar workers at the factory. 

There are at least two million Myanmar workers in Thailand, mostly working in low-paid menial jobs as factory workers and housekeepers. 

Most of the workers are not registered legally, which makes them vulnerable to unfair wages, discrimination and other forms of exploitation, according to documented claims by various rights groups.

Just yesterday, a deputy commander of the Royal Thai Police called for tougher security measures on the migrant worker community, after five Cambodian fishermen were arrested for allegedly raping two French tourists in eastern Thailand on Saturday night.


Teeranai Charuvastra can be reached at [email protected] and @Teeranai_C.