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Olympic 2020 partner Mitsubishi Electric humiliates workers in Thailand

4 October, 2018An official partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Mitsubishi Electric subjected locked-out union members at its plant in Thailand to degrading and humiliating treatment and is now refusing to reinstate 26 union leaders and members.

In December 2017, 1,800 members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Confederation of Thai Electrical Appliances, Electronic Automobile and Metalworkers (TEAM) were locked out by Mitsubishi Electric Consumer Products Thailand. The union and company then reached an agreement through collective bargaining on 29 January 2018, ending the dispute.

Mitsubishi Electric agreed to reinstate all the locked-out workers, which is also a legal requirement. However, before reinstatement, workers were called into a meeting to “check their attitudes” and pressurized to disclose compromising information about union leaders.

The company forced the locked-out workers to attend a four-day camp at a military base to “learn discipline and order”, undergo five days of training by an external human resources firm, where they were expected to “reflect on their wrong doing”, one day of cleaning old people’s homes to “earn merit”, and three days at a Buddhist temple, with no regard for their religious beliefs. The workers were also made to post apologies to the company on their personal social media accounts. 

Despite undergoing this process of deliberate humiliation, not all workers have been reinstated. The company even began advertising new job openings. Mitsubishi Electric subsequently laid off 24 workers waiting for reinstatement, including ten members of a new union committee elected in June 2018, and filed for permission with the labour court to dismiss two others. 

The company requires workers who have been called back to sign individual contracts to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expired at the end of September 2018. It includes a clause where the worker must agree that they are not members of a union – and if they are, wage increases and benefits additionally gained from the individual contract will be returned to the company.

Mitsubishi Electric has used intimidation and harassment to weaken the union, and attempted to humiliate union members. This constitutes a clear violation of fundamental workers’ and trade union rights, including national labour law and international core labour standards. 

The company is an official partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, which is committed to “Consideration of Human Rights, Labour and Fair Business Practices.”

IndustriALL has written to the company on three occasions, demanding that the dismissed workers be reinstated, but there has been no response from the company up to now.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:

“IndustriALL Global Union calls on Mitsubishi Electric to respect international labour standards, immediately reinstate the 26 union leaders and members, and stop violating fundamental trade union rights.”

During the lockout, workers lost access to all benefits, including health cover. After a worker died during this period, health cover was reinstated for pregnant women only.