Tailandia - Thai government enforces damages claim for 2009 strike action by deducting fines from salaries of trade union officials

In November 2018, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) began enforcing its successful claim for 21 million Baht in damages against the State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT), and seven of its officials, including Brother Sawit Kaewpradap, general secretary of SERC and SRUT. The claim, which began in 2011 and was most recently upheld by the Thailand Supreme Court in 2017, arose out of 2009 industrial action by the union, where union members protested against a railway accident that killed seven workers. SRUT has been negotiating with the SRT for years to resolve the situation; however, in November 2018, the SRT began deducting the fines from the salaries and pensions of the seven SRUT officials, two of whom have retired. The deduction of the fines has had a serious impact on the union officials, some of whom are now left with a take home pay of only 300 bhat (US$9.1). It will take at least ten years for the seven leaders and their families to repay the fines, as the total amount has risen to 24 million baht (US$730,000) including interest.
The Thai government, which has refused to revise the Labour Relations Act or to ratify ILO Convention No. 87 and 98, has ignored a number of international campaigns against the case, as well as the complaint filed by the ITUC and ITF in 2013 seeking that the SRT withdraw the claims. The move of the SRT to bankrupt the SRUT leaders and their families represents a strong anti-union attack. The treatment of the seven union officials has been condemned by international advocacy groups including the International Transport Workers’ Federation as an attack on the right to strike and the demand for safer working conditions.

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