A steel company implicated in a slave labor scandal involving 48 Thai welders forced to work in squalid conditions will pay US$ 1 million (36 million baht) compensation, US authorities said.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in a statement it had reached a settlement with Trans Bay Steel Inc, which agreed to compensate the workers who were brought to the United States in 2002. The EEOC alleged the Thais had been held against their will, their passports confiscated and their movements restricted, while they worked without pay. Several of the workers were also housed in cramped apartments without electricity, water or gas after being forced into menial work by recruitment companies contracted by Trans Bay. Sathaporn Pornsrisirisak, one of the workers involved in the case, was paid only $200 for six months’ work in a restaurant.
The EEOC statement said Trans Bay hired the workers after receiving a sub-contract to provide services to retrofit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in northern California. Two separate recruiting companies, Kota Manpower and Hi Cap Enterprises, were then hired to bring the workers from Thailand. Many of the workers paid recruitment fees of $ 12,000 to 15,000 to Kota and Hi Cap. However, only nine of the welders were sent to work for Trans Bay. The rest were sent to Los Angeles and Long Beach and forced to work without pay at Thai restaurants owned by Kota Manpower and Hi Cap. Federal investigators have been unable to locate the owner of Kota Manpower, identified as Yoo-Taik Kim.
Anna Park, a lawyer at the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office said the plight of the workers came to light after several escaped. “A couple of the workers escaped at night and sought refuge in a Thai temple in Los Angeles. They were being chased down the street,” Ms. Park said.
Several of the workers have since returned to Thailand while others will continue with Trans Bay.
Adapted from: "Firm in Thai slave labor scandal to pay $ 1m." Bangkok Post. December 10, 2006.
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