On Aug 6, about 300 members of the Triumph Labour Union rallied at Government House to petition the Prime Minister and call on the government to intervene in their dispute with the company which has laid off 1,959 workers.
Sutham Limsuwankasem, Deputy Secretary-General of the Prime Minister, allowed 9 representatives of the workers to meet him inside the compound, and received the petition on behalf of the PM.
Jitra Kotchadej, advisor to the union, said that they chose to come on the day the PM was holding a press conference on the government’s achievements in its 6 months in office, because they wanted to show that workers were still being laid off, contrary to the PM’s claim that the layoffs would be delayed.
Almost 2,000 workers have been laid off (in the Triumph case), but the PM has never addressed the issue or given help. So far there has been no progress on the employer’s side. We will, however, have negotiations with the employer on Aug 7, Jitra said.
‘The restructuring of the company [Body Fashion] should not have resulted in the burden being thrust upon the workers who have been making profits for the company for 20-30 years,’ she said.
The workers demanded the company cancel the layoffs and reinstate all workers, and the company and the government pay the laid off workers until the dispute is resolved. In resolving the dispute, the labour union must be consulted. And the government must ensure that there will be no more layoffs.
The government must scrap neoliberal policies which result in subcontracting, temporary employment, cheap labour and outsourcing, and stop free trade which forbids the formation of labour unions and denies the workers’ right to strike.
The government must also encourage the formation of labour unions in factories which receive support from the Board of Investment (BOI), and come up with measures to help workers who have debts in the formal and informal financial sectors.
Jitra said that the Triumph Labour Union in Thailand planned to fight alongside its counterpart in the Philippines. She heard that although Triumph in the Philippines offered much higher compensation than here in Thailand, the Filipino workers still resisted, because they preferred to have jobs.
Bunrod Saiwong, Secretary-General of the Triumph Labour Union, said that the PM’s claim to the press that the economy had picked up and the people were happy because they had jobs was not true, as workers were being laid off.
The union leader raised the question as to whether the PM did not dare come out to meet the workers himself because some in the Vejjajiva family held shares in Triumph.
Katekaew Meesri, Deputy Secretary-General of the Federation of Textile Unions in Thailand, said that employers had laid off workers every 3 months, claiming economic problems, but the government had yet to have a clear policy on this.
According to labour activist Tewarit Maneechai, during January-May, 84,876 labourers in the formal sector were laid off. So the PM has to show his deeds, rather than just talk, he said.