ITF demands reinstatement of Thai Rly workers
21 January 2010
ITF delegate Com. Venu P Nair in Press Conference along with THAI Drivers During his visit to Bangsue railway depot, HatYai, Bangkok, Thailand
The ITF this week called on the Thai government to reinstate six railway workers who were dismissed after they took industrial action. The call follows a Thai labour relations committee vote against the sackings.
In a letter dated 18 January, ITF general secretary David Cockroft reminded prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Thai state enterprise labour relations committee vote, which took place on 15 January. Committee members voted five to four against the dismissal of workers from the city of Hat Yai, represented by the ITF-affiliated State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT). Wiroon Sagaekhum, Thawatchai Boonvisoot, Prachaniwat Buasri, Sorawut Porthongkham, Saroj Rakchant and Nitinat Chaibum were dismissed by their State Railways of Thailand (SRT) employer last year after taking part in industrial action to highlight safety concerns on the railways; workers had been refusing to drive unsafe trains after a fatal accident occurred in October 2009.
An ITF delegation visited Thailand from 11-15 January to investigate the case and monitor safety standards on the railways. The delegation found that the government and management had failed to invest in the railways for many years and concluded that the case against the workers had been motivated by attempts to stop the union from taking further industrial action. It also called for the SRT’s claim for 300 million baht (US$9.1 million) in damages against the union for the industrial action to be withdrawn.
Cockroft told Vejjajiva: “The ITF believes that the SRT must develop a new safety culture with the union without delay.” It was important, he said, to foster a no-blame culture with transparency where workers were rewarded for highlighting safety concerns rather than punished.
“Workers,” he declared, “have the right to stop work under unsafe conditions. Management must acknowledge that humans make errors and it must be complemented by proper safety devices.”
He also urged the prime minister’s office to act urgently to end the conflict between the SRT and the SRUT and said that the ITF would make a complaint to the International Labour Organization should the SRT fail to reinstate the workers.
The ITF urban transport committee meeting, which met in Berlin, Germany, from 19-21 January unanimously adopted an emergency resolution supporting the Thai railway workers.