The ITUC affiliates in Thailand are the Labour Congress of Thailand (LCT), the National Congress Private Industrial of Employees (NCPE), the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) and the Thai Trade Union Congress (TTUC).
Freedom of association / Right to organise
The law prohibits anti-union discrimination, but does not provide adequate means of protection against it.
Barriers to the establishment of organizations:
- Restrictions on trade unions' right to establish branches, federation and confederation or to affiliate with national and international organisations
- Affiliation between state enterprise unions and private sector labour congresses or federations is restricted by law.
Restrictions on workers' right to form and join organizations of their own choosing:
- Single trade union system imposed by law and/or a system banning or limiting organising at a certain level (enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and/or territorial, national)
- Each state enterprise can only have one union.
- Restrictions on workers' right to join the trade union of their choosing imposed by law (i.e. obligation to join a trade union of a certain level e.g. enterprise, industry and/or sector, regional and /or territorial national)
- The law provides that members of a union "shall be workers working for the same employer" of the enterprise or company represented by the union, or "employees engaging in the same category of work." If a worker loses his/her job at that enterprise, he or she must be dismissed from membership of the union.
Restrictions on trade unions' right to organize their administration:
- Restrictions on the right to elect representatives and self-administer in full freedom
- An executive committee member of a union must be at least 20 years old to stand for election despite the fact that the legal age to work is 15. The law also prohibits any non-Thai citizen from being an elected leader of the union committee. The result is that the estimated 1.5 to 2 million migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos who are present in the country are effectively stripped of any right to form a trade union.
- Restrictions on the right to freely organise activities and formulate programmes
- The Thai government uses NPKC Order 54 from the 1991 military government to restrict the unions’ right to have advisors. Under this order, each union is entitled to no more than two advisors, who must register with the Ministry of Labour and have their registration regularly renewed. The Ministry has broad discretion to deny registration and penalise labour leaders who fail to register.
- Administrative authorities' power to unilaterally dissolve, suspend or de-register trade union organisations
- If a union’s membership dips below 25% of the eligible workforce it is liable to be dissolved administratively by the state.
Categories of workers prohibited or limited from forming or joining a union, or from holding a union office:
- Non-national or migrant workers
- The law prohibits anyone who is not a Thai national from being one of the ten workers required to organise and register a union.
- Others categories
- The 2003 Private University Act exempts private universities from the Labour Protection Act and the Labour Relations Act. Similarly, the Private Schools Act of 2007, passed by the military-appointed Parliament in December 2007, stipulates that all teachers and educational personnel are not covered by these two key labour laws. The law establishing quasi-government "public institutions" also prevents workers in those institutions from forming a union. An increasingly wide variety of quasi-government organisations have been established as "public institutions", thereby creating a growing section of official employment that is legally union-free.
Right to collective bargaining
Barriers to the recognition of collective bargaining agents:
- Previous authorisation or approval by authorities required to bargain collectively
- A union must take a vote at its annual meeting in order to put forward its demands, failing which the union has no right to engage in collective bargaining.
- Excessive requirements in respect to trade unions' representativity or minimum number of members required to bargaining collectively
- Employees constituting at least 15% of the workforce, or a trade union with a membership representing at least 20% of the workforce, may present collective bargaining demands.
Right to strike
Limitations or ban on strikes in certain sectors:
- Undue restrictions for "public servants"
- The State Enterprise Labour Relations Act (SELRA) prohibits strikes and lock-outs within state enterprises. Civil servants do not have the right to strike.
- Discretionary determination or excessively long list of "essential services" in which the right to strike is prohibited or severely restricted
- Private sector workers have the right to strike, but the government may restrict strikes that would "affect national security or cause severe negative repercussions for the population at large". The law forbids strikes in "essential services," which it defines in significantly broader terms than those laid down by the ILO.
Freedom of association / Right to organise
Barriers to the establishment of organizations:
Employers regularly dismiss workers trying to form trade unions, especially when workers are awaiting registration of the union (and therefore not yet covered by the laws protecting them from anti-union discrimination
Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.
See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
). In other situations, they are dismissed for ostensibly non-union reasons invented by the employer and must challenge the firings in court.
The government continued to refuse to register the National Thai Teachers Union (NTTU), which is affiliated to Education International (EI).
Trade union discrimination:
Following a derailment on October 5, 2009 that resulted in the death of passengers, members of the State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT) announced that they would refuse to drive trains that had faulty safety measures and equipment. Although the SRUT executive committee members did not strike
The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.
See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike , they organized a health and safety initiative. Soon after, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) dismissed about half of the union executive committee members.
On December 17, 2010, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand found that the SRT violated principles of freedom of association
freedom of association
The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.
See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework and workers’ rights.
On July 28, 2011, the Central Labour Court upheld the dismissals anyway, also ordering the dismissed union committee member and leaders to pay approximately $500,000 USD in fines plus 7.5 percent annual interest accrued from the date of filing.
On August 10, 2011 the State Railway of Thailand, with the permission of the Central Labour Court, dismissed additional members of the SRUT executive committee, including its president. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, where it could take at least several years for review. Even though their case awaits review in the Supreme Court, the executive members of the SRUT are no longer considered employees of SRT. Therefore, they are no longer officers or members of the committee and were not able to run for union office at the recent SRUT general assembly.
On April 30, 2013, a formal complaint was made for consideration by the ILO
International Labour Organization
A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.
See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights Committee on Freedom of Association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.
See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework against Thailand for failing to adequately respect the rights of trade unions.
TechnoPLAS manufactures auto parts in an industrial estate in Chonburi, employing 463 permanent workers, 200 subcontracted workers, and 200 migrant workers from Cambodia and Burma. The workforce is mostly female.
In late 2012, workers began to organize and form a union and collected signatures to support and propose their demands to the company but negotiations with the employer were not successful.
On December 25, the workers received their union registration.
On January 23, 2013, however, the employer dismissed eight of the union leaders.
On January 30, the employer dismissed a further seven union leaders, claiming that that they were let go because of an organizational restructuring. The dismissed workers were pressured by the Labour Inspectorate to take a payout from the company to resign.
On May 29, the Labour Relations Committee released its verdict which called upon the employer to reinstate the remaining workers. During this protracted process, a total of 14 of the 15 workers took the payout from the company and resigned because of financial difficulties.
The Nakashima Rubber Company operates a facility in an industrial estate located in Ayutthaya. The workers organized a union in 1995. On January 17, 2005, the company dismissed four union leaders including the president. At the time, the local union local union A local branch of a higher-level trade union such as a national union. had 1,045 members from a total work force of 1,400. About 350 of the workers were on short-term contracts hired through employment agencies. Immediately following the dismissal, the employer refused to allow the union leaders to enter the enterprise to meet with their members or to represent them. The company claimed that the four union leaders violated company rules pertaining to “union duty leave” but the union insisted that they had always asked the personnel office for permission. The company also accused the union leaders of changing their shift without notifying or receiving authorization from a manager, which the union refutes. Two of the union leaders decided to take a payout from the company and resigned. The other two union leaders, however, fought their case over a seven-year period and won in the Labour Relations Committee and the Central Labour Court but the employer continued to appeal the decisions and refused to reinstate the union leaders. Finally, on September 3, 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the company to reinstate the two dismissed union leaders. The employer, however, refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. The two union leaders have now filed a lawsuit against the company for not complying with the Supreme Court’s decision.
Yum Restaurant International (Thailand) employs over 10,000 workers in the food and service industry. On May 9, 2011, the company dismissed three union leaders after they successfully registered a trade union and tried to propose their demands. The company then threatened union members by calling them into small group meetings or individual meetings in order to pressure them to resign from the union. Under financial distress, two of the union leaders accepted the company’s offer and resigned. The other union leader refused and took her case to the courts, where she won reinstatement. Although she was reinstated, the judge pressured her to be more conciliatory by accepting the money and dropping the case. She still returned to work and since then, the employer has isolated her to prevent her from talking with or representing her union members and has given her no work since June 2012 to demoralize her. The company continues to pressure her to take a payout and leave by putting her under video surveillance.
TRW Steering and Suspension, which operates a manufacturing facility in one of the industrial estates in Rayong, employs 150 permanent workers and 250 subcontracted workers (who are not eligible under Thai labor law to become union members of the existing industrial union
A union whose membership is composed of workers in a particular industry, regardless of their profession or skill level.
See company union at the facility). On March 30, 2012 the employer unilaterally increased wages without negotiating with the union. The increased wages were below what the workers were expecting, and they began to refuse overtime in protest. The union then proposed wage increases in line with the industry standard. On April 20, workers report that TRW announced a lockout lockout A form of industrial action whereby an employer refuses work to its employees or temporarily shuts down operations. of the three union leaders, including the president. TRW claimed that the union leaders led the workers to slow down the production, which caused damage to the company and violated the company’s rules. The company wrote in a letter to the local union local union A local branch of a higher-level trade union such as a national union. leaders that “the company found that you, together with some workers in the production line, intended to slow down the production.” The lockout lockout A form of industrial action whereby an employer refuses work to its employees or temporarily shuts down operations. continues, more than a year since it was implemented. Although many mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.
See arbitration, conciliation meetings were held involving the provincial labor office and labor court, the workers were pressured to accept an offer from the employer to drop their complaint and resign. Two of the locked-out union leaders insisted on reinstatement, while the locked out union president had to accept the company offer and resign because of financial difficulties. The remaining locked out union leaders believe that the labor courts and provincial labor office have not been working to reinstate them but are instead pressuring them to take the company offer and resign. The case is ongoing.
Right to collective bargaining
Undermining of the recourse to collective bargaining and his effectiveness:
On 24 December 2012, management at Electrolux announced unilateral wage increases without engaging in negotiations with the Electrolux Thailand Worker’s Union. Requests to negotiate wages were disregarded. In January 2013, management repeatedly asked workers to refrain from engaging in union activities insisting that the unilateral wage increases determined by management were appropriate. During a meeting with management on 11 January 2013 the union President Phaiwan Metha was forcefully removed from the meeting and sent home. Management explained to the workers that he had been dismissed. In response to this unjustified dismissal, workers refused to return to work. Electrolux retaliated by forcibly detaining workers for more than 6 hours on the company lawn before dismissing 129 workers.
Iida Seimitsu is a manufacturer located in an industrial estate in Chonburi, and employs about 220 mostly female workers. In early 2012, the workers organized and registered their union. On March 30, 2012, the union proposed its demands to the company. Rather than negotiate in good faith, the employer proposed to take away many of the benefits the workers already had, an act which the workers believe was retaliation for organizing a union. On April 18, 2012, the employer demanded that the union drop all its demands. The provincial labor officer mediated two meetings on April 20 and April 25, 2012 but was not able to resolve the dispute. Instead, the employer locked out 112 union members and leaders on April 27, 2012. After several rounds of mediation
A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.
See arbitration, conciliation , the company agreed on May 18 to reinstate all of the union members but assigned them to cleaning jobs at 75 percent of their pay. Because of the discrimination and pressure they faced for being union members, many of the reinstated workers resigned. Soon afterward, the union ceased to exist and workers did not file any further complaints for fear of retaliation.