29 May, 2020Despite international pressure and action by global unions, workers’ rights are continuing to be violated in Thailand. Japanese automotive part manufacturer Sunstar Engineering has laid off union members, hiding behind the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the year, Sunstar Engineering employed more than 300 permanent workers and 80 subcontracted workers. A majority of the permanent workers, 179, were members of Thailand Autoparts and Metal Workers Union (TAM), affiliated to Thai Confederation of Electronic, Electrical Appliances, Auto and Metal Workers (TEAM) and Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT). CILT is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.
Recently, Sunstar Engineering laid off 94 permanent workers and all 80 subcontracted workers, blaming the Covid-19 pandemic and declining orders. All of the 94 permanent workers are union members and were laid off without any previous warning. No other solutions, like voluntary early retirement, were discussed.
The company also laid off five workers on the employee committee without seeking necessary permission from the Labour Court, clearly violating Thailand’s Labour Relations Act.
The union is saying that contrary to Sunstar Engineering’s claims, the company has shown profits over the last years. After a temporary shutdown of production during a part of April, Sunstar Engineering returned to full operation and production in May.
According to the union, this is not the first case of union busting. Sunstar Engineering’s human resource manager had warned union members that they were likely to be laid off. The company had also sent a document for union members to sign, saying that the employer would no longer automatically deduct union dues from the salaries.
This intimidation, another clear violation of Thailand’s Labour Relations Act, led to 35 workers leaving the union on 22 May. With further members leaving the union, the union now has less than 20 members.
Together with the ITUC and other global unions, IndustriALL has raised serious concerns on labour violations in Thailand, including violations of the right to freedom of association, to organize and to bargain collectively. Thailand is one of the few countries in the world to have ratified neither ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association, nor ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining.
In October last year, the US announced that it would partially suspend Thailand’s trade preferences under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in April 2020. The six-month delay was meant to give the Thai government an opportunity to take the necessary steps to protect fundamental workers’ rights. However, most of these concerns have not been addressed in any meaningful way.