Allow Unions in Thailand

My company recently had to appear in the Labour Court in a case where a former employee claimed wrongful dismissal.

In short, the person was employed on October 2019 prior to Covid. When the government in April 2020 asked companies to let employees work from home, we complied. When the government later lifted this request, we asked our staff to come back to the workplace. Two of them preferred to continue working from home. We preferred them to work in the office where productivity is usually higher. To work from home, they had to resign and instead sign a freelance contract. Both employees agreed to this.

In the case of the plaintiff, the regular employment was replaced with a freelance contract for the duration of one year that specified that the freelancer should invoice the company every end of the month for days worked in that month.

When there were 45 days left of that contract, the freelancer complained about not being able to log into the website and added that “It’s about time I look for another job.” Two days later, we received an invoice for the days worked up to the day. We were annoyed but quickly found a temporary replacement, paid the invoice and considered the case closed.

A few months later, the employee went to the labour court and filed a complaint free of charge. Some days later, the company received a letter from the court demanding us to pay compensation for wrongful dismissal. The court inspector had deemed our freelance contract unlawful since we compensated the freelancer per day and not per piece.

Our company had to hire a labour law firm to fight the case – which we eventually won albeit on a technicality.

The whole case was a blatant waste of everybody’s time and money and I cannot help thinking that if Thailand had unions like in the Nordic countries, this would have been settled long before the whole apparatus was involved.

While forming unions is not illegal in Thailand, Thailand has one of the lowest unionization rates in all of South East Asia. The main reason is a paternalistic government which supports anti-union discrimination and instead offers the Labour Court as a state mechanism to protect the rights of employees.

In my opinion, allowing unions to be formed like in the Nordic countries would ultimately benefit economic development in Thailand, as more foreign countries and investors would see Thailand as a modern state that adheres to international labour standards.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

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