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Mutual understanding is vital if the economy gets worse: labour leaders

Employers and employees 'need to meet halfway in the face of economic slump'

In the face of ongoing political turmoil and its adverse impact on the economy, a labour leader and a top government official agreed that employers and employees should meet halfway on their demands.

"They must talk and find a way to survive together," Thai Labour Solidarity Committee chairman Chalee Loysung said ahead of the National Labour Day, which falls on May 1.

He reckoned that the state of the economy was quite gloomy, and hence urged employers to speak frankly to their employees if they need to cut down on welfare or overtime. However, he warned businesses against cutting workers' benefits simply because they want to increase their profits.

"Don't forget that there will be a serious labour shortage when the economy picks up, so try and keep your current employees and maintain their loyalty," he said.

Pichet Jaitrong, a 40-year-old worker in Nakhon Pathom, said his factory had already cut down on overtime working hours. "That's why I'm earning Bt140 less each week," he said.

Labour Protection and Welfare Department's deputy director general Suvit Sumala said workers had staged 64 protests between October 1 and this past Wednesday, but that did not include many labour disputes over benefits.

"In most cases the employers and employees were able to settle their disputes. Employees are aware that the economic situation is not so good at present," Suvit said.

He added that things may get tougher for both employers and employees in the wake of the ongoing political turmoil.

"So, they should help each other. Together they should be able to wade through the crisis and things will improve," he said.

Suvit warned that if the two sides quarrel at such a difficult time, business shutdowns might be unavoidable.

Both Chalee and Suvit voiced concern for subcontracted staff, who are often the first to be hit when the economy is affected. "There are signs that various industries have cut down on their subcontracted staff," Suvit said.

Chalee said the number of sub-contracted staff had been shrinking because many large firms were suffering a drop in revenue.


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