TITLU ….. / 2009
21 August 2552
The Delegation of the European Commission to Thailand
Kian Gwan House II, 19th Floor
140/1 Wireless Road, Bangkok
In 1886, founders Braun and Spiesshoffer started operations in a barn in Heubach, Germany. The name "Triumph" was registered as trademark in 1902 and became Europe's largest corsetry manufacturer during the 1930s. In 1933, the company opened its first international branch in Zurzach, Switzerland, where the global holding company is based today. Triumph started it business in Thailand in 1969.
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 (out of nineteen) union committee members. 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). It 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.
On 7 August 2009, Mr Chak Chaloemchai, a marketing and sale manager of the Triumph International (Thailand) told the press that ‘the sale profit starting from next year would be increasing to two digit figures and would be better than of 2008 and 2009, when the growth rate was only a single digit figure. This is due to the political crisis, economic crisis and our inability to meet the demands. (Post Today, 7 August 2009). On 21 March 2009, the same newspaper reported that “Mr. Chak told that the mother company in Germany is facing some difficulty, but the current crisis is also an opportunity to expand their business because the mother company has large amount of capital for investments.”
The news has shown that the Triumph International doesn’t suffer impact from the economic crisis, as the same time, looking at it as a business opportunity. It is an opportunity to laid-off workers, making them facing their economic crisis - the crisis that the company regards as opportunity. This is an act to destroy the union. Furthermore, the news is also proof that the Triumph is indeed a Germany company, a European Union member, and one whose products are sold in the EU markets – contrary to the claim of the German Embassy in Thailand that Triumph is not a German compay.
The EU is recognised for its commitment to promote human rights, both within the EU Community and also outside of the EU community. The EU has promoted companies and business sectors to implement Corporate for Social Responsibility for social justice, human rights (including labour rights), and environment.
The EU emphasises that human rights are one of its main principles and the policy of the EU and its member states, and the EU supports the use of mechanisms and tools that promotes the advancement of human rights and democracy, recognition of the United Nations and the International Labour Organization principles and conventions, and the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals - which Triumph International workers are to be protected by, under the OECD Guidelines and Triumph’s Code of Conduct.
The action of Triumph International is lacking of humanity, doesn’t respect human rights and the social welfare of its workers. It is an act that regards workers as commodity that is to be discarded when it is no longer useful. These laid-off workers will be living in poverty and have no life security. The decision of this mass scale lay-off was not discussed with all the laid-off workers and the union before the decision was made. This act of Triumph International is not in accordance with a democratic society and is also breaking the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the Body Fashion (Thailand), Triumph’s subsidiary company.
EU has strongly promoted the human rights principle and has its strong policy on human rights and CSR. We, Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union, urge the Delegation of the European Commission to Thailand to intervene in this urgent case. Our demands of the 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, and 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 the private sector in reducing the unemployment and dismissals and in preventing the increase in 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.
Miss Bunrod Saiwong
Secretary of Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union
Copy to: International Labour Organization , Human Security Network (HSN)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva Prime Minister of Thailand