A protest of 700 Burmese migrant workers at the V&K Pineapple Canning Company Factory in Ratchaburi, Thailand ended yesterday after reaching an agreement between the employer and the migrant workers, stated the Chiang Mai-based Migrant Assistance Program Foundation (MAP). Sutthiphong Khongkhaphon, a coordinator for the Labor Rights for All program conducted by MAP, told the Independent Mon News Agency on Monday that the protest was over at 6 pm when, after negotiations, the migrants received their demands from their employer.
Migrants list of demands included 7 points: to be paid the full legal overtime rates and an explanation of the various deductions made from their pay packets before they receive them. In compliance with hygiene and sanitation standards, the workers demanded a sufficient number of toilets for the number of workers (currently there are only four), full work-related accident compensation, improved access to health care, and an end to discriminatory practices between the treatment of Thai and Burmese workers.
The protest started on Monday because the workers were outraged that another was beaten by a Thai foreman first in a market and then back in his room. When a Burmese interpreter came to clear up the situation, he too was beaten, said Jackie Pollock, the founding member of the MAP Foundation. During the protest, the migrant workers conducted a strike and requested for the payment of their full salary, having not received full payments for the last six months. V&K pays 167 baht daily for workers at the company, though the minimum wage in Ratchaburi is 180 baht. Khing Zaw Naing, a leading migrant protester, said that the employers pay the workers their salary two times a month. Every time the migrants withdraw the money, the employer gives them a reduced salary. They should be receiving 1,760 baht, but they receive only 1,000 or 700, with an explanation that the rest will be given to them later.
We have suffered a lot. This is why we conducted a strike, Khing Zaw Naing said.
There are an estimated 2 to 3 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, with many of them staying in the country illegally. Many of the migrants are ethnic minorities within Burma, Mon, Karen, and Shan, who have fled Burmese army oppression and human rights abuses. The V&K Pineapple Canning Factory produces canned pineapples and dehydrated fruits which are exported worldwide to Europe, America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.