October 10, 2008
Thai workers end six week strike
Between July 30 and September 13 more than 2,000 workers at the Thai subsidiary of underwear giant Triumph International went on strike to demand reinstatement of their union president, Ms. Jitra Kotchadej. Ms. Kotchadej was dismissed on July 29 in relation to her appearance during her private time in a national television debate wearing a t-shirt with the text ‘Those who do not stand are not criminals. Thinking differently is not a crime.’ The t-shirt refers to the right of people not to stand when the royal anthem is played and the abuse of lèse-majesté legislation to suppress political opposition.
Thousands of labour activists and consumers joined the workers in their 45-day fight for justice and called on Triumph International to reinstate the union president.
Triumph International and the union reached an agreement to end the strike on September 13. The parties agreed to allow the Thai labour courts to review the dismissal of Ms. Kotchadej. In response to a request by the company’s lawyer, the court decided that Ms. Kotchadej will not be able to return to work during the review of her case, but will remain formally employed by the company pending a resolution of the court case – which allows her to receive wages and benefits and remain active as president of the union.
The company agreed to take the other striking workers back without taking disciplinary action and offered the workers a compensation of 5,200 Baht (equivalent to 15 days wage for a production worker). Triumph International also promised to strictly implement its Code of Conduct at Body Fashion Thailand.
On September 23, the labour court agreed to Ms. Kotchadej’s petition to retry the case of her dismissal (the court had previously granted the company permission to dismiss her, but the company did not inform Ms. Kotchadej of the court proceedings until they day they fired her). She will have to wait until November 17 for her first chance to defend herself in court.
MSN remains concerned that the company is not only attempting to restrict Ms. Kotchadej’s free expression outside of working hours, but also that the company is using the incident to undermine the Triumph International Workers’ Union and dismiss one of their most vocal defenders.
Pending further developments, MSN is not requesting any further action in this case.
For background on the case, please see the urgent action.