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Unfairly laid off push for payouts

Buakaew Waiyawan, 45, worked for a medium-sized company producing corrugated paper and plastic products in Chon Buri.

Just before Songkran, the company, D R World Co, announced it was closing down.

Management asked the staff to work for their new firm, B B Number One Co.

Some workers agreed to work there, but others refused to move as the new factory was some 30km away from their old workplace, Mrs Buakaew said.

The company refused to pay them compensation, forcing the employees to seek help from the Labour Protection and Welfare Department, she said.

The problems faced by workers in small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially with regard to compensation after being made redundant, are nothing new.

Workers have been pushing for a long-awaited redundancy insurance fund to help them if they are unfairly laid off.

Labour groups have aired the grievances of workers who have been laid off without compensation and have also been pressing for the fund to be set up.

Permanent secretary for labour Jeerasak Sukhonthachart says several funds have been set up to provide savings for workers.

These funds includes welfare benefits for the elderly under the Social Security Act as well as provident funds under the Provident Fund Act, where both employees and employers must contribute.

However, social welfare legislation does not cover compensation for workers who reach retirement age or their families in the event of death.

The Employee Welfare Fund, set up under the 1998 Labour Protection Act, received 200 million baht from the government in 2000, 50 million baht in 2002, 100 million in 2008 and 50 million baht in 2010.

In recent years, the fund has helped laid-off workers who did not get compensation or wages from their employers.

So far, the fund has given about 4.2 million baht to over 100 unpaid workers and it has collected 400,000 baht from employers who had not paid their workers.

On top of state subsidies, the welfare fund is topped up by fines collected from employers who violate the Labour Protection Act.

Since the Employee Welfare Fund came into force in 1998, employers are not required to contribute to the fund. The delay in a decision to get companies to contribute to a redundancy fund is no comfort for workers like Mrs Buakaew.

"There was no cause for celebration during this Songkran festival. I was laid off without getting compensation money,'' she said.

Mrs Buakaew and others are still waiting for compensation and the future is bleak. Household expenses are building up as she tries to look for a new job. But at 45, finding work is not easy.