BANGKOK — An opposition MP and former union leader said a recent government ban on labor strikes during the coronavirus pandemic is counterproductive to workers’ rights.
Move Forward MP Suthep Ou-on said the ban, issued by the labor ministry and came into effect on Friday, contradicts the fundamentals of labor dispute laws and is entirely unjustifiable. He also noted that the number of new coronavirus infections are on decline, therefore a new restriction does not make any sense.
“Collective bargaining is necessary,” Suthep. “This kind of order prevents labor relations laws from functioning. Why do we need the laws then?” Suthep said. “The pandemic is already on the decline. It is unnecessary.”
Citing the spread of coronavirus, the order banned labor strike as well as barring employers from temporarily shutting down its business as a result of failed labor dispute.
The order, signed by Labor Minister Chatumongkol Snakul, also instructed any ongoing labor strike to stop, and told employers who suspend businesses as a result of failed labor negotiations to resume business.
Suthep and three other labor-wing MPs from the party said in a statement released Tuesday that the order should be revoked immediately.
Suthep said Thai labor rights were already poor before the coronavirus outbreak, with only 1.6 percent of Thailand’s total labor force unionized.
There are 1,200 labor unions in Thailand and roughly fewer than 200,000 members,, Suthep said.
“The role of the labor movement and collective bargaining have decreased since the crisis,” Suthep said.
Thailand’s laws ban labor strikes unless the workers already tried and failed to resolve the dispute through the government’s labor relations office. Many offices also ban workers from forming unions.