SUPPORT WORKERS AT BODY FASHION THAILAND:
The following appeal for solidarity with workers at Triumph International's branch in Thailand comes from the Clean Clothes Campaign, an international solidarity group fighting for the rights of garment workers worldwide.
Take action today: Support Triumph Union in Thailand and Tell Triumph to Stop Sitting on the Sidelines!:
TRIUMPH UNION CONTINUES FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS;
TRIUMPH UNION CONTINUES FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS;
TELL TRIUMPH TO STOP SITTING ON THE SIDELINES!
The workers at Body Fashion Thailand (BFT), Triumph International’s Thai subsidiary, are responsible for sewing the underwear and bras that bear Triumph’s name. They are proud of their work—and their union. So when their union president, Jitra Kotshadej, was unfairly dismissed in July, they went on strike to demand justice. While Ms. Kotshadej awaits a hearing of her case in court, members of the Triumph International Thailand Labour Union went back to work.
But now they’re fighting against the management’s attempt to limit union rights and discriminate against union members. The union and the CCC have repeatedly called on Triumph International to take an active role to ensure that Body Fashion Thailand respects international labour standards, fundamental human rights, and Triumph International’s own Code of Conduct. But Triumph International continues to sit on the sidelines while relations at the factory turn sour.
Please write to Triumph International today to call for its active participation in resolving the outstanding problems at its Thai factory.
Take action now!
On August 1, 2008 more than 2000 workers at Triumph subsidiary Body Fashion Thailand went on strike to demand the reinstatement of their unjustly dismissed union president Jitra Kotshadej (see http://www.cleanclothes.org/ftp/08-09-04_Triumph_FACT_SHEET.pdf). Despite protest emails from thousands of international labour activists in support of the union, Triumph International refused to reinstate Ms. Kotshadej. She is now preparing to argue her case in court beginning on November 17.
In the meantime, the union agreed to end the strike. Although factory management signed an agreement on September 12 guaranteeing that the company would not retaliate or discriminate against workers who went on strike, the union has reported just that.
Now that orders seem to be low at BFT, workers who participated in the strike are not being assigned jobs and are therefore denied much-need bonuses. On top of this, union members report frequent verbal abuse by supervisors and a stricter leave policy. In October two meetings between the union and BFT took place. While BFT management promised to address issues of discrimination and harassment, no concrete action has followed to date. BFT management has agreed to set up an investigation team into the reported acts of BFT management involvement in anti-union acts during the August-September strike and reported acts of corruption.
However, since the company refused to have representatives of Triumph International headquarters and the German Triumph Works Council included in the investigation team, the union is afraid that this team (comprised of BFT management staff and representatives of the union) will not be able to come out of the current deadlock situation.
Triumph International’s Empty Promise
From September 23 to October 4, Miss Wanphen Wongsombat of the Triumph International Thailand Labour Union and Miss Premjai Jaikla of the Thai Labour Campaign visited Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to press Triumph International to ensure compliance with its Code of Conduct, international labour standards and basic human rights.
They met with labour activists, NGOs and trade unions and participated in seminars and conferences. On the final day of their visit, they met with representatives of Triumph International at its headquarters in Switzerland. Triumph repeated its expectations that factories implement the standards set out in the Triumph Code of Conduct. Yet it refused to take responsibility and to intervene to help solve the problems at its factory. Without such engagement, Triumph’s Code of Conduct is simply an empty promise on a piece of paper. Now is the time for Triumph International to commit to direct involvement and put an end to discrimination against union members and ensure full implementation of agreements between the management and the union.
Please write to
Take action at: http://www.cleanclothes.org/urgent/08-11-06.htm#action or adapt/send the sample letter below:
Triumph International Swiss Headquarters
Global Head of Supply Chain
Dear Leonardo Innocenzi,
Now is the time for Triumph to play an active role in ensuring that union members at your subsidiary, Body Fashion Thailand, are treated fairly and in accordance with international labour standards and your Code of Conduct.
By now you are well aware of the events leading up to the current situation at your subsidiary, Body Fashion Thailand. I am alarmed to hear that union members who went on strike are now facing discrimination. I understand that workers who participated in the strike are not being assigned jobs and are therefore denied much-need bonuses. On top of this, union members report verbal abuse by supervisors and a stricter leave policy. In October, two meetings between the union and BFT took place. While BFT management promised to address issues of discrimination and harassment, no concrete action has followed to date.
I am encouraged that BFT management has agreed to set up an investigation team into the reported acts of management involvement in anti-union acts during the August-September strike and reported acts of corruption. However, the company refused to include representatives of Triumph International headquarters or the German Triumph Works Council in the investigation team. Now is the time for Triumph International to commit to direct involvement and show that it is serious about implementation of its Code of Conduct.
I therefore urge your company to immediately put an end to incidents of union discrimination, ensure full implementation of agreements between management and the union, and follow up on other outstanding labour issues directly with the union. The first step would be to join the investigation team, include the German Works Council, broaden its mandate to investigate allegations of discrimination against the union since the end of the strike, and ensure a fair, transparent and quick process.
Box: Profile of a Triumph Union Activist
Miss Wanphen Wongsombat started working at Triumph’s Thai subsidiary, Body Fashion Thailand, as a production worker (sewing) in 1995. After she joined the union in 1996, she was soonelected as a committee member for the union. During the last round of bargaining negotiations in July, Wanphen was one of the main negotiators. When union president Jitra Kotshadej was unfairly dismissed on July 29, 2008, Wanphen was among the first to organise the mass protests demanding her reinstatement.
During bargaining negotiations in July, Wanphen was confronted with the challenges of union organising in Thailand. She received threats by phone from anonymous callers who warned her that her union activities would cause her personal harm. And just before she left to participate in a CCC speaker tour in five European countries, she received death threats in an attempt to discourage her from continuing her fight for the union and BFT workers.
Since returning from Europe, she has received anonymous calls in the night. As if this were not enough, Wanphen is also facing a campaign by BFT management against her on the factory floor. While participating in the Clean Clothes Campaign tour, rumours were reportedly spread that Wanphen was on holiday in Europe while her fellow workers had to sew Triumph bras. At other times, Wanphen was reportedly accused of calling for a boycott of Triumph in Europe with the intention of destroying the factory altogether. Particularly now that accusations of lèse majesté (the Thai law that penalizes insults to the Thai king) are widely used to retaliate against political and human rights activists, Wanphen is also afraid that cyber threats to file complaints against the most articulate Triumph union leaders will indeed become realities.
Support Wanphen’s and the union’s work, and write to Triumph today!