For the first time in 39 years history of Thai Rayon textile factory in Ang Thong, Thailand, the workers voted and walked off the jobs following the deadlocked CBA negotiation between the trade union and local management.
The current CBA signed by the union in 2010 expired on 31 May 2013. The union's proposal submitted to the company contained the demand to increase monthly living wage from 5,000 THB (118 Euro) up to 6,000 THB (140 Euro) topped with a 150 day bonus payment instead of the existing 136 day bonus.
As a counter proposal Thai Rayon management suggested to reduce nearly all the benefits the union had previously gained including the monthly living wage cut down to 3,000 THB (71 Euro) and reduced pay bonus down to 45 days.
The majority 849 workers out of 980 are members of the Thai Rayon labour union, an affiliate of IndustriALL through Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation of Thailand (TWFT). Most of Thai Rayon workers have worked at the factory between 20-30 years. In addition, the company employs around 150 agency workers for maintenance, cleaning and security work.
Despite 39 rounds of negotiations, many of them in presence of the government mediators the employer took a firm stand. The union launched a strike ballot supported by 716 union members who on 18 September walked off the jobs and held a rally outside Thai Rayon factory gate.
Next day the management declared a lockout of union members including the union committee and the CBA negotiators. Later members of the union started to report threats of dismissals received from the management.
Eight rounds of negotiations have taken place since the strike, the latest on 10 October. So far without results.
According to the union, Thai Rayon made 1.3 billion THB (30.6 million Euro) in profits last year. Previous years were highly profitable for the company as well. Despite high rate of profitability and increased pressure on workers trying to meet the raised production quotas, management insists on cutting workers' benefits and chose to delay CBA negotiation in order to put pressure on the union to accept drastic cuts.
The Thai Rayon factory is owned by Aditya Birla Group, a global conglomerate with headquarters in India, employing 130,600 workers in 26 countries. The Group owns a number of chemical and textile companies.