Open Letter Subject Observations and recommendations for the management policy of the Factory Sandbox by the Ministry of Labour

Open Letter

15 September 2021
Subject Observations and recommendations for the management policy of the Factory Sandbox
by the Ministry of Labour
Dear Minister of Ministry of Labour
CC:
1. Minister of Public Health
2. Minister of Interior
3. Minister of Industry
4. Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)
5. Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA)
6. Thai Tuna Industry Association
7. Federation of Thai Industries
8. Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade of Thailand
On 30 August 2021, the cabinet acknowledged the report of the implementation of a pilot
program for the prevention and control of communicable diseases in factories (Factory Sandbox)
conducted by the Ministry of Labour. Starting since 13 August 2021, it has focused on
workplaces, businesses and factories serving large scale export which plays a vitally important
role to the national economy to ensure the continuation of industrial operation in four sectors
including automobile, electronic parts, food and medical equipment. It took place in four target
provinces including Nonthaburi, Pathumthani, Samut Sakhon and Chonburi with factories
employing at least 500 workers and upward. This has been done in conjunction with disease
control and prevention measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Labour, in the pilot area (Phase I), there were 387 participating
workplaces with 474,109 insured workers. The Migrant Working Group (MWG) has these
observations to make;
1. This program was put under the charge of the Ministry of Labour in collaboration
with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Interior under the “Health
Economics” concept to stabilize the economy while upholding the employment and
ensuring the control and prevention of communicable diseases. MWG has found that
even though the Ministry of Labour took the lead in the program, but the focus of the
labour management has been placed on workers insured in the social security system
pursuant to Section 33. As a result, some uninsured workers could be unaccounted for
in this program even though they are employed by the participating factories.
2. In terms of labour protection and the promotion of decent work in the midst of the
pandemic, according to our survey of workers within and outside the Bubble and Seal
(BBS), the workers have to face similar programs including being suspended from
their work and isolated if they are found to have close contact with infected persons

while there is no clarity regarding the payment of their wage during such quarantine.
In practicality, the workers are forced to isolate themselves taking their days off or
their annual leave which shall affect the exercise of their rights as an employee
according to the labour protection law concerning annual leave. In terms of their
accommodation, despite measures put in place by the public agencies, but according
to cases reported to the MWG, the workers have to live in crammed and vulnerable
places with insufficient supply of food and drinking water. If both parents
participated in the program, their children would be left behind and unattended.
3. MWG has found the MoPH’s Department of Disease Control’s (DDC) has published
a detailed guideline on “Disease Prevention and Control in Designated Area (Bubble
and Seal - BBS) for Workplaces”. In reality, all workers are required to have a Covid-
19 test via RT-PCR to isolate infected persons and ensure they receive prompt
treatment. They are also required to test themselves using Antigen Self-Testing Kit
(Self ATK) every week. MWG notes that the DDC’s guideline does not clearly
mention as to who shall be held responsible for the testing costs. Just for the initial
target group of 474,109 workers required to have RT-PCR, it would have cost at least
one billion baht (at 3,000 baht/person). The weekly ATK tests would have cost
33,187,630 baht (at 70 baht/person/week). If they have to test themselves four times a
month, they will need 1,896,436 self-test kits. A lack of clarity regarding who shall
bear the expense for the tests asides, MWG has been informed by workers from the
factories participating in the BBS program that many of them are forced to pay for the
ATK test kits themselves. There is also insufficient ATKs for the workers. At present,
the National Health Security Office (NHSO) has decided to procure 8.5 ATKs via the
Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) and the distribution targets shall
include slums and fresh markets focusing on risk groups and those working with the
community. And according to online news, the NHSO will start distributing such
ATKs to the public the middle of September onward while the Factory Sandbox pilot
program has started since late August 2021.
Therefore, to ensure economic stability and to protect employment as well as to
control and prevent diseases as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response and to
ensure the protection of people’s rights according to the Constitution 2017, MWG
has these recommendations for the Ministry of Labour and concerned agencies.
1. Produce a manual on the labour protection in designated disease control areas to set
out clear guidelines for the employers and their employees. What should they do If
they have to be suspended from their work, how they should take their days off.
There should be clarity as to the payment of their wage during the quarantine, or the
compensation. This is to ensure that while acting in compliance with measures for
disease prevention and control, the workers shall not be deprived of their due rights as
protected by the Labour Protection Act 1998. The Ministry of Labour must issue a
notification specifying that the taking of sick leave for Covid-19 quarantine must be
treated as a paid sick leave and they shall not be included in their normal sick leave
provided that they may have to isolate themselves for a long time. Proactive testing
should also be conducted among the workers in response to the outbreak. For
example, the migrant workers should be allowed to submit their applications in their

languages and to submit them as a group through online complaints mechanism.
Since the four industrial sectors are geared toward export, it is important to ensure the
standards of goods are met as well as compliance with labour protection standards
since it would be one of the requirements set forth by the buying countries. This
action may have ramification on Thailand’s image as far as the Business and Human
Rights principles are concerned.
2. The Ministry of Labour should expand the program to also account for uninsured
workers who are employed in the participating factories. These factories may employ
both Thai and migrant workers and the latter are subject to labour management at
different levels. Some migrant workers are in the process of becoming insured
workers and having access to unemployment benefits. Therefore, if they are at risk
and required to isolate themselves, they may not be able to exercise their rights
according to the labour protection law.
3. The MoL should urgently meet with the MoPH to ensure sufficient supply of test kits
for all workers participating in the program. And the MoPH should take the lead to
outlay expenses to procure ATKs while refraining from charging either the employers
or the employees. The MoPH’s budget can be drawn from the one-trillion-baht
emergency loan decree since the program serves medical and public health purposes
with the existing earmarked budget of 63,898 million baht. 1 This shall also serve the
purposes of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017’s Section 47 paragraph
3 which prescribes that “A person shall have the right to the protection and
eradication of harmful contagious diseases by the State free of charge as provided by
law.” Every country in the world including Thailand realizes and acknowledges that
Covid-19 pandemic is an emerging disease that affects public health of all people and
all aspects of national development.
4. The MoL should expedite the effort to ensure access to vaccination of all workers.
This will help to reduce their vulnerabilities to the disease, sickness and deaths. It can
also promote the good quality of life of the people and the fulfillment of Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG). Thailand’s SDG ranking has fallen from 41 st last year to
43 rd this year. It also serves Thailand’s commitment on “No one safe until everyone
safe” made during the Global Compact on Migration meeting at the United Nations in
March 2021.
5. The Social Security Office (SSO) or the Division of Health Economics and Health
Security, as the case may be, should ensure health facilities in the areas where the
workers are eligible take the lead to provide healthcare in each spot of the Factory
Sandbox. Otherwise, NHSO should coordinate for the provision of healthcare to all
workers by drawing into the Health Insurance Fund and not charging either the
workplaces or the workers.
6. Clear measures and guidelines should be put in place to monitor the accommodation
for the isolated of workers at risk of infection provided by each workplace. It should
focus on the provision of consumable supplies, preventing crowdedness and any
vulnerable condition. Measures should be put in place to help if both parents have to
be quarantined and their children could be left unattended.

1 https://resolution.soc.go.th/PDF_UPLOAD/2021/P_404380_3.pdf

With respect in human rights and human dignity
Migrant Working Group (MWG)

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For more information, please contact:
Mr. Adisorn Kerdmongkhol, Migrant Working Group’s Coordinator, phone 089 788 7138 or
email [email protected]

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