The Thailand national rubber unions network met on 19 and 20 July in Bangkok to exchange information on challenges in the industry and develop a collective response.
Thai union leaders in the rubber and tyre sector from 10 unions and eight companies – Goodyear, Yokohama, Maxxis, IRC tire, Michelin, Bridgestone and Sumitomo – participated in the meeting organized by the Confederation of Industrial Labour (CILT) and IndustriALL Global Union. They were joined by Christian Bradier, a representative from Michelin in France.
The meeting discussed key issues for the sector, including: problems with shift work patterns and compulsory overtime to ensure 24 hour production; the fact that not all unions collect dues by check off; lack of day care and breastfeeding facilities for women in factories; and the fact that some important unions that play a key role in the sector are not IndustriALL affiliates.
The tyre and rubber network was established through a workshop organized by IndustriALL in February 2012. The workshop focused on international labour standards and social dialogue, and aimed to start discussion, exchange information and establish the union network.
After the 2012 meeting, IndustriALL has worked to develop the potential of the network. A network meeting was organized in 2015, to provide updates on the global situation and an overview of the sector, exchange information and discuss strategies for improving workers’ conditions.
A structure was created and a coordinator identified to help build cooperation between unions. An action plan and schedule of future activity – including bi-monthly meetings – was agreed to carry the work of the network forward.
The network brings unions together, and there is now cooperation and coordination. In 2016, the Rubber Worker’s Group of Thailand coordinated with CILT and the IndustriALL union building project to develop an organizing plan. This aims to increase membership by recruiting for unions in the network, with a targeted organizing drive at the Linglong company. There is also a focus on health and safety. IndustriALL guidelines were followed to establish a women’s committee, and increase women’s activity and representation in union structures.
“This is a big step to strengthen the network, build bargaining power and reach standard protection and welfare through a collective bargaining agreement at national level.
“We will consolidate a strong network in the sector and expand company-based networks to regional level in South East Asia to make union bargaining more effective. We at IndustriALL appreciated your good work and hope that we will be in the same family, as we are stronger together,” said Helmut Lense, director of automotive and rubber at IndustriALL.
Yongyuth Mentapao, president of CILT, closed the meeting by saying:
“This is an important meeting for us. As you know, Thailand has much lower union density in comparison to other countries worldwide. We have more than 30 million workers, but only 600,000 union members - just 1.5%.
“We need to change our union culture, starting with three key issues: financial management, member engagement and communication.
“We now have IndustriALL as our international partner, cooperating with Thai affiliates to support our activities and build a stronger labour movement together”.