4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Thailand

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).

In practice

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New law used to repress peaceful union protest and intimidate leaders06-01-2016

On 6 January 2016, three police units backed up by military forces were used to break up a protest rally by 500 locked-out workers at Japanese-owned auto-part supplier Sanko Gosei outside the Ministry of Labour in Bangkok. The government invoked new powers under the Public Assembly Act 2015, which carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison for causing a disturbance or disruption of public services.

More than 600 Sanko Gosei workers, all union members, were locked out from their factory on 20 December 2015 after negotiations over a new collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreement and bonuses broke down. The company claimed that it was unprofitable. In the meantime, however, casual workers were brought in to replace the locked out workers. The Sanko Gosei Workers Union accuses the company of using the dispute to bust the union and replace permanent workers with subcontractors.

After the rally was broken up, two union leaders, Chalee Loysoong, Vice President of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and Amorndech Srimuang, President of the Sanko Gosei Workers Union, were questioned by the authorities for about four hours. During this time their phones and ID cards were temporarily confiscated and they were escorted at all times, even to the bathroom. The union leaders had taken part in 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
negotiations with Sanko Gosei and the Ministry of Labour during the day, as the rally was taking place outside.

The intimidation continued the next day when Wilaiwan Saetia, the President of the TLSC, was followed from the factory to her house by four or five military officers both in uniform and plainclothes. Yongyut Mentapao, Vice President of the TLSC, also reported that he had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units.

The following week, on Wednesday 13 January 2016, five military officers visited Wilaiwan Saetia at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province at around 8.00 p.m. At the discussion, which lasted until about 11.00 p.m., the officers cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that henceforward she had to inform the military first before making any political moves.

Organising prevented in both law and practice07-10-2015

Thai law denies the majority of the country’s 39 million workers their trade union rights. Restrictions on organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. make it very difficult for temporary workers to join a union - and half of the workers in Thailand’s industrial workforce are temporary. The use of contract labour is also rife, heavily limiting unionisation, while foreign migrant workers – about ten per cent of the workforce – are prohibited by law from organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. or holding union office. This situation and a string of labour rights abuses led the global union Industriall to file a complaint with 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
on 7 October 2015, World Day for Decent Work, for violations 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 the right to organise. Industriall points out that the law fails to provide the basic rights 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 collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
to about 75 per cent of the workforce of 39 million people. As a result, Thailand has the lowest unionisation rate in southeast Asia, at 1.5 per cent.

The complaint lists 18 cases of abuses of fundamental trade union rights, including many cases of workers being sacked simply for belonging to a trade union. In one case, the employer sacked 60 per cent of the workforce and replaced them with migrant labour to prevent the formation of a trade union. It is difficult for workers to seek redress. Even when the courts have declared worker dismissals illegal, little is done by authorities to enforce the rulings. Companies are allowed to carry on excluding and intimidating trade union leaders.

Airline tries to destroy union by suing for damages over collective agreement10-08-2015

On 10 August 2015, four union leaders from Thai Airways International Union (TG Union) were ordered to pay over nine million US dollars in damages to Thai Airways, in a case involving peaceful protests in 2013 that resulted in a collective agreement.

The collective agreement was signed by the union and management in January 2013, after a two-day protest oversalaries and job security. The agreement granted increased pay and benefits not only for the workers but also for management level workers – including the airline’s then acting president. A year later, however, in January 2014, Thai Airways filed a damage suit of USD 9,281,349 against four of the union’s leaders who had signed the collective agreement with its management. The courts found in the airline’s favour in August 2015.

In January 2016 the TG union together with the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (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
) about the government of Thailand’s failure to protect workers’ rights. Specifically, the complaint noted that the principle 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
was not enshrined in law.

Iida Seimitsu refuses to bargain with workers27-04-2012

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 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.

State Railway of Thailand dismissed half of the union executive committee members30-04-2013

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 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.

Yum Restaurant International dismissed three union leaders 30-06-2012

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.

Nakashima Rubber Company refuses to reinstate the union leaders03-09-2012

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.

TechnoPLAS dismissed eight of the union leaders30-01-2013

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.

Union leaders locked out for more than one year20-04-2012

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 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.

Refusal to bargain and anti-union discrimination24-12-2012

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.

Union organisers often dismissed30-11-2009

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 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.

Registration refusal30-11-2009

The government continued to refuse to register the National Thai Teachers Union (NTTU), which is affiliated to Education International (EI).

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