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Visitor from Thailand’s Ministry Of Labour spends a month with Minneapolis unions

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, May 25, 2024
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Nicha Wang-arkad
Nicha Wang-arkad from Thailand's Ministry of Labour spent four weeks with the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

By Steve Share, editor, Minneapolis Labor Review

MINNEAPOLIS — As part of a U.S. State Department exchange program, a visitor from Thailand spent four weeks with the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation learning about local unions, worker organizing and workplace issues.

Phonnicha Wang-arkad, “Nicha,” has worked for eight years as a labour specialist for Thailand’s Ministry of Labour. Working for six years in Bangkok, she focused on improving labor conditions in the fishing industry.

Low-skilled workers come to Thailand from neighboring countries, she explained, “they just want a better life.” Many work in the fishing sector but sometimes they don’t get paid and “the working and living conditions on the boats are very bad,” she added.

“We worked together with the International Labor Organization and the European Union,” she reported, to adopt and enforce labor standards and combat forced labor.

Wang-arkad currently works in a provincial office about three hours drive from Bangkok in Nakhon Sawan. “My work is about the implementation of national labor policy, “ she explained. Her focus is on enhancing policies that support workers in the informal sector, women, people with disabilities, elderly and migrant workers. “We do this by providing skill development and creating decent job opportunities,” she added.

Wang-arkad also works to prevent labor trafficking and forced labor in the local establishments through labor inspections.

Wang-arkad came to the U.S. as part of the “Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program”  bringing 104 fellows from 11 countries which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Timor Leste.