Dark age conditions
Although a legal Burmese migrant worker in Thailand is covered by all aspects of Thai labour laws, in practice, they are rarely enforced. Factory work normally starts at 8am and finishes at 9pm, seldom with overtime pay. Most migrants work 7 days a week with 1 day off a month if they are lucky. Sometimes factories run all night if there are orders to fill.
The legal daily minimum rate of pay is 137 Baht ($NZ6), but this is rarely met. A 2004 investigation found that only one factory out of 200 in Mae Sot paid the legal minimum wage to Burmese employees and deductions from pay are often made for food and lodging (if provided), safety gear, and even any mistakes made in work. Many migrants have loan repayments for registration and migrant worker cards. For those who have to send money back to families in Burma there is often little or nothing left in their paypacket.
Although education on labour rights is an important part of the project work, a very strategic approach to implementing those rights has to be taken. A key part of the UnionAID project strategy is to work closely with the local legal aid office and the Thai Labour officials to enforce labour standards against bad employers.