On February 8th 2010, 3,600 factory workers, mostly women, in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Rangoon, Burma, protested against the substandard working conditions they are forced to endure in the factories. Workers employed at the Opal 2 and Mya Fashion factories demanded a wage increase of 10US$ a month. The next day, workers at the Taiyee shoe factory, and the Kya Lay garment factory also came out to demand the enforcement of public holidays, an increase in their daily wage, proper payment of overtime and other basic rights.
For over two months, former Triumph workers have rallied at the Ministry of Labour, despite the ministry’s threats to remove them from its premises. Two of their leaders have returned from a campaign trip in Europe.
The Labour Court in Samut Prakarn dismissed a case of unfair layoff filed by former Triumph workers against Body Fashion (Thailand) Co. The workers, however, will continue their fight, and sell their own ‘Try Arm’ underwear at their rallies, while two of their leaders are running a campaign in Europe to pressure Triumph headquarters.
Laid-off Triumph workers stood up and held banners in protest during a speech by PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on his government’s work on human rights. The workers complained that the government had ignored their problems and police had abused their human rights.
19 Thai workers were left stranded for 4 months after a year working on a tomato farm in Murcia, southern Spain. In July, they were sacked by their Spanish employer, despite the fact their broker in Thailand had promised them 5-year contracts. They returned to Thailand on 4 Dec, and are now trying to seek compensation from the Thai broker, as they had incurred huge debts to apply for the job.
Recently, it was reported that the retrenched workers of Nikko Electronics Bhd protested outside Penang State Assembly.(Star, 2/12/2009), seeking the State government's assistance to get their benefits and compensations. These were amongst the 1,000 odd workers that were retrenched suddenly without notice by their employer in July 2008. Apparently, their plea to the Minister, the Federal and State government have not been successful to date. If there was a National Retrenchment Scheme, as proposed by MTUC in 1998, in place, they could have resorted to this to get some compensation.
The Ministry of Labour will seek a court order to remove Triumph workers from the ground floor of its building, citing a complaint from a citizen, after it previously claimed the need to use the space for an exhibition to celebrate the King’s birthday. Products under the workers’ own brand name ‘Try Arm’ have been made and sold, and a labour organization in Switzerland has placed an order for 400 pairs of underwear.
Two leaders of the Triumph labour union, who were charged with inciting unrest and blocking roads during their protests at Government House and Parliament in late August, have been granted bail with academics from Chulalongkorn University as guarantors.
Women workers at a garment factory in Hainan, southern China, began a strike on Wednesday 11 November to press their demands on pay and vacations after management announced drastic cuts in bonuses. Around 3,000 workers at the Hainan Youmei Underwear Co., Ltd in Haikou City, the provincial capital, gathered outside the plant. The factory is wholly owned by German-Swiss lingerie giant Triumph International, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of women’s underwear.
On the ground floor of the Ministry of Labour, amid campaign banners and luggage scattered around, groups of women are engaged in activities. When night falls, mosquito nets of various colours occupy the place. These are members of the Triumph Labour Union, which has been active since 1980, and is reputedly one of the most enduring.