Thailand’s Labour Court has ordered Dhammakaset Co Ltd, which operates a poultry farm in Lopburi, 150 kilometres north of Bangkok, to pay 1.7 million baht [US$50,000] in compensation to 14 Burmese workers who were forced to work long hours and were underpaid.
The Saraburi-based Region 1 Labour Court on Friday ordered the company, previously contracted to supply poultry to Thai export giant Betagro, to pay 1.7 million baht in back wages to the 14 migrants for working on public holidays, which is considered overtime.
The court’s order was issued in line with a decision made in August by Lopburi’s Labour Protection and Welfare Office which awarded the workers 1.7 million baht in back wages.
The court also acquitted Betagro, accused of involvement in encouraging forced labour, reasoning the company had nothing to do with the operation of the chicken farm. The judge also threw out the 14 Burmese workers’ petitions seeking further compensation.
Suthasinee Kaewsinlek, a member of the Migrant Workers Right Network representing the 14 workers at the hearing, said the 1.7-million-baht compensation fell short of what the workers should have actually received for the overtime.
The compensation was retroactive for only two years despite the workers having been at the farm for about three to five years up to the point of the court trial.
Ms Suthasinee said she planned to discuss with the 14 migrants whether they wanted to take the case to the Supreme Court, adding two of them also faced a counter suit by the company, which is accusing them of theft.
The lawsuit against Dhammakaset was brought to court in September last year by 14 workers seeking 46 million baht in compensation and civil damages for alleged abuses suffered by the workers for several years at the poultry farm.
The workers’ litigation came after labour officials in Lopburi decided the overtime owed to the workers was worth 1.7 million baht.
However, the workers insisted the amount was insufficient and demanded full compensation over the course of five years of employment under poor working conditions.
They accused the farm owner of forcing them to work more than 15 hours a day without any days off and paying them only 230 baht a day, well below the daily minimum wage of 300 baht.
They also said they did not get paid overtime for working during public holidays.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 18 March 2017.