Two affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union in Thailand, the Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation of Thailand (TWFT) and the Chemical Workers Union Alliance (CWUA) are denouncing the mass sacking of members of their joint affiliate Mölnlycke Health Care Labour Union. Since the local union was established in 2001, a number of workers have been sacked due to their active involvement in trade union activities. Twenty-three founders and leaders of the plant-level union were dismissed in 2001 even though the Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) of Thailand ruled the sacking to be unfair and ordered the company to reinstate the workers. At a later stage, two workers were reinstated, one of whom was elected as union president who was again sacked in 2007.
Another wave of dismissals started with collective bargaining negotiations in 2011 which were obstructed by local management’s issuing of “work suspension orders” for most of the union representatives conducting the bargaining for the workers’ side. The work suspension orders blocked the reps from entering the factory and from meeting workers to discuss the collective agreement. No explanation was ever given by management for their actions.
Despite this management intimidation, negotiations were concluded on 5 September with an agreed new collective agreement, but immediately subsequent to that agreement, management dismissed 22 workers who had taken part in bargaining, many of the 22 were union shop stewards. Mölnycke local management refused to explain this decision and rejected all attempts from the union to enter into dialogue on the issue.
Forced then to bring the case to the Industrial Relations Committee of Thailand, the workers were found to have been unfairly dismissed following a detailed investigation by the IRC ruling on 19 January 2012. Instead of respecting the IRC ruling, Mölnlycke responded with a court case aimed at nullifying the order, and at prolonging the case. In the meantime, four dismissed people have withdrawn from their insistence after the company paid their agreed compensations, but eighteen dismissed union members are still outside.
Using the absence of eighteen democratically elected worker representatives, local management proceeded to intimidate existing workers into signing individual contracts on new reduced salaries and conditions. Those who refused to sign have been punished by management through work suspension orders and forced transfers to jobs they are not properly trained for.
IndustriALL Global Union’s two Swedish affiliates, Unionen and IF Metall, have taken initiative to support the campaign through several meetings at local and headquarters level. Ultimately, Mölyncke management insisted on awaiting the final court decision for re-instatement of the dismissed workers.
After several communications, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina has denounced these grave abuses of core labour rights in Thailand to top management of the Swedish-based multinational. Whilst acknowledging and supporting an initiative of dialogue and training between the company and IndustriALL’s Swedish affiliates Unionen and IF Metall, Raina wrote “Let me honestly add that for these steps to materialize, we need a solid ground which, at this stage, can only be obtained with the reinstatement of the eighteen dismissed union members”.