15 January 2010
An international delegation of top railway trade unionists on a mission to Thailand has strongly criticized poor rail safety standards and anti-union practices by employers and government.
The delegation arrived on Monday, travelled to Hat-Yai in southern Thailand and concludes today in Bangkok. It was put together by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and comprised rail union leaders from Norway, New Zealand, India and Japan.
Delegation members condemned the poor safety standards they discovered. Ageing rolling stock, lack of safety devices and staff shortages were amongst the most serious concerns raised by the unionists. The latter resulted in railway employees having to work for long periods without weekly rest days, further compromising safety and raising concerns for passengers.
Oystein Aslaksen from the Norwegian Locomotive Drivers Union and Chair of ITF Railway Workers’ Section said the Thai government and the railway company SRT must “develop a new safety culture with the union without delay”.
He added that workers should be rewarded for highlighting safety concerns – not punished. “Workers have the right to stop work under unsafe conditions,” he insisted.
Thawatchai Boonvisoot, Wirut Sagaekhum, Prachaniwat Buasri, Sorawut Porthongkham, Thawatchai Bunwisut, Saroj Rakchant and Nitinat Chaibum, all Thai railway union officials, were dismissed recently on spurious grounds following industrial action called as part of safety campaigning. The railway company should reinstate all six, and refrain from making further threats against union representatives, the ITF mission concluded.
The delegation also strongly urged the SRT to withdraw legal claims to the value of 300 million Baht (US$9.1 million) in damages against the union after it called the work stoppages, which date from 16 October 2009.
Mac Urata, ITF inland transport section secretary said that the ITF would take steps to lodge a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should the SRT fail to reinstate the six dismissed workers, withdraw the damage suit and cease union-busting tactics. "The ITF has grave concerns about the situation and we will do all we can to push for a strong safety culture and positive industrial relations" he added.
NOTE: Members of the delegation were Oystein Aslaksen, ITF Railway Workers’ Section Chair and President, Norwegian Locomotive Drivers’ Union; Wayne Butson, ITF Railway Workers’ Section Asia Pacific Chair and General Secretary, Rail Martime and Transport Workers Union, New Zealand; Mac Urata, ITF Inland Transport Section Secretary; Mahendra Sharma, ITF Asia/Pacific Regional Secretary; Venu Nair, Assistant General Secretary, National Railway Mazdoor Union (Central Railway), AIRF India; Masa Takahashi, International Secretary, JREU Japan.
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson.
Direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260.
International Transport Workers’ Federation – ITF:
ITF House, 49 – 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871