No Benefits For Workers In Free Trade Agreement
Wed, 1 Sep 2004
No Benefits For Workers In A Free Trade Agreement With Thailand
The New Zealand and Thai governments are negotiating a free trade agreement. They want to have the deal signed by November 2004 - regardless of the answers to the following questions:
Is it fair to workers?
Not to New Zealand workers in the clothing, textiles, footwear, bedding, vehicle parts, tyre, rope and carpet industries (currently protected by tariffs of 10 per cent or more) who could lose their jobs or be pressured to accept lower wages and conditions if forced into unfair competition with exploited Thai workers. The minimum wage is $6:20 for an eight-hour day - or 77 cents an hour. Nobody can live on that wage in Thailand (let alone support a family) so most workers in these jobs work a lot of overtime. The average working week in this sector is 50 hours.
Child labour is common in Thailand. At least 500,000 children aged 13-14 are (illegally) in paid employment, and earning even less than the minimum wage. Migrant workers are especially vulnerable, and there are lots of abuses. Although Thailand has ratified the International Labour Organisation conventions on the minimum age, and discrimination, it does little to monitor or enforce them. Hence the widespread exploitation of children and discrimination in pay, conditions and opportunities for advancement of women workers.
A bad situation is made worse by the fact that Thailand has not ratified the ILO conventions on the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining, which means that union organising is extremely difficult.
So Thai workers, like New Zealand workers, don't need more free trade - they need secure jobs with decent pay and conditions and the right to organise collectively to improve their lot.
Is it democratic?
Trade treaties in both countries are negotiated by a minority group in Cabinet with little parliamentary or public scrutiny. Ordinary citizens have little influence on what's in them - big business calls the shots.
Is it environmentally friendly?
More 'dirty dairying' in New Zealand is likely - NZ dairy company Fonterra asked the NZ government to negotiate the agreement to increase its market share.
Is it a good deal?
It will increase trade between New Zealand and Thailand - but the trade will be between big corporations. The vast majority of Kiwis and Thais can not expect to be better off.
IF IT'S NOT FAIR IT'S NOT FREE!
Hear how a free trade agreement between Thailand and New Zealand would hurt jobs, wages and working conditions, and damage the environment.
CHRISTCHURCH, Monday September 13 7:30 p.m. Trade Union Centre, cnr Armagh and Madras
WELLINGTON, Wednesday September 15 7:30 p.m. St John's Hall, cnr Willis and Dixon
AUCKLAND, Thursday September 16 7:30 p.m. Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn
Speakers from Thailand Dr Jakkrit Kuanpoth associate professor of law at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University Ms Sripai Nonsee, labour organiser and ex-factory worker.
Tour supporters include:
Action Research Education Network Aotearoa. Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links Brass Razoo Solidarity Band Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa Clothing, Laundry and Allied Workers Union Envision New Zealand Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand MADENZ NZ Council of Trade Unions Trade Aid