Wage hike for some, job loss for many others

national November 23, 2014 01:00

By Kawintra Jaiseu
The Sunday Na

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Pirach Chaunlakhon, 37, who had been contracted to work for a tambon administrative organisation in Udon Thani's Kumphawapi district for more than two years, suddenly found himself without a job earlier this month. Two of his colleagues also ended up fac

“On November 3, the tambon clerk told us that our contracts would not be renewed, as the office was shouldering rising HR costs, which went against Article 35 of the Local Personnel Administration Regulation Act 1999,” he said. “The news was so sudden that I didn’t know how to prepare and meet my responsibilities, such as paying my two children’s school fees or my ailing father’s medical bills.” 
He said he and his colleagues have also not been told whether they would be compensated for the termination. 
This news comes in sharp contrast to the time when Pirach and his wife, who also works at the same office, found their combined salaries rise to Bt18,000 a month. Pirach had started off on just Bt4,000 a month. 
With their new combined salary, household expenses rose as in addition to their children’s school fees and his father’s medical expenses, they also had to pay off a bank loan they had taken to invest in a sugarcane plantation, he said. 
Similarly, their colleague Pariyut Puttakul, 38, was also hired at the office for Bt4,000 a month even though he just had a Mathayom 6 certificate. He explained that he looked after his mother and his two children. When the minimum daily wage was increased to Bt300 nationwide last year, he was delighted to see his salary rise to Bt9,000, and with this new boost, he decided to take a Bt350,000 bank loan to build a new home and put some money away for his children’s future studies. 
“I have been working in this office for nearly 10 years now, and did my job to the best of my ability. My work record is untainted. Yet I was told on September 30 that my contract had been terminated. It was so sudden that I don’t know how to deal with my debts, my daily expenses or even where I should look for a new job,” he said.
These job losses were caused by the several salary increments given to civil servants and general employees, as well as the hike in daily wage to Bt300 a day and the Bt15,000 starting salary of bachelor’s degree holders. Local administrative organisations have reportedly had to let go of contract workers, as they try to keep their personnel expenses under 40 per cent of the total budget in accordance with Article 35 of the Local Personnel Administration Regulation Act 1999. 
Pipat Worasitthidamrong, president of the Local Administrative Officials’ Association of Thailand, explained that though decisions on salary hikes were made by the central administration, local bodies covered the new wages and their budgets were not changed to match the extra expenses. 
Hence, he said, many local administrative organisations, especially small ones, found themselves going beyond the 40-per-cent limit. 
He was speaking at a forum in Khon Kaen that was held to keep local administrative employees informed about legal procedures, including guidance on compensation for getting laid off and how they can appeal against it. It also suggested possible solutions such as getting together to call for more funds to be allocated to local bodies so they can cover the higher salaries. 
Pipat explained that in order to solve the problem of staying within the budget, many officials who had been working for a long time and earned between Bt10,000 and Bt20,000 had to be let go or put on a contract, bringing their earnings down to Bt9,000 with no benefits. He warned that things would become worse in the next three to five years. 
“After talking to some people, I learned that several of the employees had been told to resign so they could get re-hired on a temporary basis. Then they were placed under assessment for contract renewal. Some were told to leave their jobs under Article 35,” he said.
Pipat said local bodies employed some 190,000 to 220,000 people, and as many as 10,000 of them were let go nationwide on October 1 alone. 
On Tuesday, the Cabinet resolved to consider giving civil servants a 4-per-cent wage hike from April 1, 2015, a decision that has left many ordinary government employees wondering if they too might be affected like Pirach or Pariyuth. 

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