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Triumph workers seek help from Swiss Embassy

Triumph Labour (Thailand)Union Protest at Swiss embassy
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Sat, 25/07/2009 - 08:41

Triumph workers rallied at the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok, making demands through the embassy to Triumph International whose headquarters is located in Switzerland. After the embassy refused to come out to receive their petition, the workers read out the demands, burned the petition and left.

On July 24, over a thousand workers who are to be laid off by Body Fashion (Thailand) Ltd, a subsidiary of Triumph International, marched from Ratchadamri Rd along Rama I Rd to Wireless Rd where the Embassy of Switzerland is located.

At the Embassy, the workers demanded to speak to Ambassador Rodolphe Samuel Imhoof, but were met with his first secretary instead. Three representatives of the workers were allowed to enter the embassy to talk with the secretary.

The talk yielded hardly any results as the embassy said it had to check whether Triumph International was registered in Switzerland, and it was not sure whether it could bring the employee to the table.

The embassy refused to come out to receive the workers’ petition, but asked the workers to send their representatives to submit the petition inside the premises.

So the workers decided to read the letter in Thai and English through a megaphone, and burned the petition in protest. They finally left for their protest site in front of the Triumph factory in Bang Phli, Samut Prakan.

The workers are demanding that the Body Fashion Company cancel its plan to lay off 1,959 workers, disclose information in accordance with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, consult the labour union regarding policies which would affect the welfare of the workers, and adhere to the Triumph conglomerate’s own Code of Conduct which recognizes the importance of human rights protection.

A meeting between the Triumph labour union and Body Fashion is set to take place soon at the Office of Labour Protection and Welfare in Samut Prakan.

Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union 0058/2009

20 July 2009

Subject: Swiss multinational corporation Triumph International must rescind its dismissal of TITLU union members and workers of Body Fashion Thailand

Dear Mr.Rodolphe Imhoof, Ambassador of Switzerland in Thailand,

Triumph International started its Thai operations in 1969. The multinational garment company is currently headquartered in 3005, Bern, Switzerland and Triumph Intertrade AG, Triumphweg 6, 5330 Bad Zurzach, Switzerland. The brand’s local subsidiary, Body Fashion (Thailand) Limited, was registered in 1989 and is now located at 393, Moo 17, Bang Pli Industrial Estate, Bang Sao-thong Subdistrict, Bang Sao-thong District, Samut Prakan Province. Body Fashion manufactures and distributes lingerie and swimwear under the Triumph, Valicere, Sloggi, AMO, and HOM trademarks.

On June 29th, Body Fashion’s management announced the dismissal of 1,959 employees, half of the Bang Pli plant workforce, effective August 31, 2009. Most of the laid-off workers are members of Triumph International Thailand Labour Union (TITLU), including thirteen sub-committees and committees of nineteen committees. Many of those dismissed are pregnant, sick, disabled and elderly workers who are not able to find new jobs or easily change their occupations after 20 to 30 years of dedicated service to Triumph.

Body Fashion’s management claims that these August dismissals will be part of a restructuring and cost reduction plan that aims to increase overall company efficiency and to build confidence in the brand’s viability. Nevertheless, the management reported no such need for drastic restructuring measures before announcing August’s massive layoffs. Furthermore, Triumph has in fact stepped up production in its new, non-unionized Nakorn Sawan plant, buying land and building new facilities in order to accommodate an estimated 2,000 workers. This unequivocal effort at busting the Bang Pli-based TITLU union was generously funded by an aid package from Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI). BOI’s subsidy, totaling in 75.5 million Baht, was reported in Thailand’s Naew-na newspaper, in the world business news brief column, on the 8th of July, 2008. With no union to represent their voices or address their grievances, 1,000 Triumph workers are already now employed in the newly constructed Nakhon Sawan plant. Finally, in protesting their illegal termination without compensation from the Mahachai-based subcontractor Worldwell Garment Co, Ltd. on May 1st, the company’s 41 former employees revealed that they had processed subcontract orders from Triumph International until 2008 without the TITLU’s knowledge in another clear attempt by Triumph to undermine the union while continuing with business as usual.

These actions of the company management displays a complete disregard for the human rights of the diverse groups of workers devastated by their unjust business policies and calculated attempts at union busting for which Triumph has become known. Triumph International sees its employees as commodities to be exploited for their labour power, only to be discarded later without care. The management has continued in its ongoing efforts to undermine basic democratic principles by carefully avoiding or preempting all

opportunities for consultation with the trade union representatives on measures necessary for finding creative solutions to the company’s perceived financial difficulties.

Switzerland boasts a longstanding reputation as a staunch defender of human and workers’ rights, hosting the headquarters of the ILO and different humanitarian organizations within its territory. In keeping with the country’s commitment to such rights, multinational companies with their main seats located in Switzerland should run their overseas business operations in accordance with basic international standards. As Switzerland and Thailand both count themselves among members of the Human Security Network (HSN), the Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union calls upon both countries to now assert their commitment to building human security and protecting dignity.

The stated aims of Swiss foreign policy, as declared on January 1, 2000, were to promote peace, mitigate global poverty and maintain respect for democracy. Acceding to full membership within the United Nations in September, 2002, Switzerland once again affirmed its commitment to human rights, among other important projects. Switzerland continues to be honored by countries in the Asia-Pacific Region as a valuable negotiator in crucial political and humanitarian conflicts. The rehabilitation and enhancement of women’s livelihood are important issues with which Swiss agencies rightfully continue to grapple. The 1,959 laid-off workers of Triumph International (Thailand) are, of course, mostly women. Many of them are pregnant, sick, disabled, and elderly. In spite of all of these afflictions and ailments, what made these women clear targets for dismissal by Triumph was indeed their healthy resilience: these women had won decent wages through decades of hard-won salary increases and built up a strong and responsive union after decades of intense struggle.

We, Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union, urge the Swiss Embassy of Thailand to intervene in this urgent case. Our demands of the Swiss multinational Triumph International are as follows:

1. To rescind the August dismissal notices and reinstate all 1,959 workers back to their jobs

2. To disclose information in line with the international standards and OECD Guidelines based on the OECD Guidelines for MNEs. The information being disclosed should be reliable and true regarding company body, financial status, result of business implementation, factory’s surroundings and environment, employment and labour relations as well. Employees’ rights must be respected and equally treated.

Furthermore, in case of massive dismissals, the company should consult with the trade union and government bodies in order to find appropriate solutions and minimize negative effects on workers to the extent that it is possible, as Switzerland is in the group of OECD, and should follow the regulations strictly.

3. To conduct social dialogue with the trade union in order to discuss policies which may affect workers’ livelihood and to reduce the tension and disputes between the management and employees. Based on the human rights inherent in democratic societies as well as the OECD Guidelines for MNEs relating to employment and industrial relations, social dialogue leads to the development of creative and acceptable solutions that avert or minimize the effects of collective dismissal. Such social dialogue complies with the one-year measure of the Thai government in terms of maintaining and raising peoples’ income by means of cooperating with private sector in reducing the unemployment and dismissals and in preventing of increasing the number of dismissed workers.

4. To follow Triumph International’s Code of Conduct which emphasizes human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, ILO conventions, and the UN Global Compact

We hope that you will honestly follow our demands mentioned above.

Respectfully yours,

Miss Bunrod Saiwong

Secretary of Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union

CC: International Labour Organization , Human Security Network (HSN)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva Prime Minister of Thailand