On the World Day for Decent Work, October 7, IndustriALL Global Union has filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) against the Royal Thai Government for serious violations of trade union rights. IndustriALL’s complaint to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association, details 18 cases of trade union and worker abuses in Thailand.
IndustriALL, which has seven affiliate trade unions in the country, accuses the Thai government of failing to protect its workforce of 39 million workers, nearly half of whom are employed in the informal sector. While abuses of Thai workers are longstanding, the situation has not improved under the current Thai government, which was installed after a military coup in May 2014. Thai law fails to provide the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining to about 75 per cent of the workforce, leading the country to have the lowest unionization rate in the whole of South-East Asia at 1.5 per cent.
In Thailand’s industrial zones, where global brands manufacture in a variety of sectors, about 50 per cent of workers are temporary. Thai law makes it difficult for temporary workers to join a union at a company even though they may have been working in the same position for several years. Contract workers are also used to stop unionization of workplaces. One company sacked and replaced 60 per cent of its workforce to stop the unionization of its plant.
Workers are frequently sacked for being trade unionists or trying to bargain collectively. In cases where the courts have ordered workers to be reinstated, companies often ignore the ruling or put intolerable pressure on workers to quit. In other instances, court proceedings drag on for so long that the workers are forced to accept a payout and resign.
In the complaint, IndustriALL urges the Thai government to review labour laws in consultation with trade unions and to ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively.
With regard to the 18 cases listed in the complaint, IndustriALL calls on the Thai government to “ensure that employers comply with any and all orders for remediation and compensation, and that workers’ fundamental rights are respected.”
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said: “Thailand is a hub in the global supply chain for many multinational companies. The government must do more to protect its workers, who are the backbone of the economy. Likewise, multinational companies must not allow worker violations at their suppliers and subsidiaries in Thailand just because they can get away with it.”