A Japanese-owned auto parts manufacturer in Thailand – Y-Tec – is conducting a brutal crackdown after workers formed a union, according to IndustriALL, a global federation of trade unions. Y-Tec monitored union members with closed circuit televisions, submitted them to random drug tests, dismissed some and forced others to resign, and laid a defamation charge against the union president over a social media post.
The auto parts manufacturer in Prachinburi, Thailand is owned by Yamashita Rubber. It employs about 2,000 workers, and produces hose tubes, engine mounts, suspension bushings and dynamic dampers for Daihatsu, Isuzu, Suzuki, Sanyo and other companies. It has two plants in Prachinburi, opened in 1997 and 2013.
The Prachinburi plants are part of an industrial complex with several interrelated companies operating in the same supply chains. There is no union recognition, but workers sometimes stage protests and wildcat strikes against working conditions.
IndustriALL affiliate, the Confederation of Thai Electrical Appliances, Electronic Automobile & Metalworkers (TEAM), had been helping the workers to form and register a union. At the beginning of December 2016, workers grew unhappy after not receiving a promised bonus. The situation escalated after a physical provocation by the HR manager and police, the military and security guards were called in to settle the outburst says IndustriALL.
Seven workers were appointed as bargaining representatives, and they formally registered the Prachinburi Automobile Part Workers Union on 26 December, recruited members and sought recognition from Y-Tec.
The response from the company was to separate the union members from the rest of the workforce by putting them on night shift. About 90 workers who had been involved in the protest were called to a meeting and asked to resign for “destroying the working relationship.”
After they refused, the company forced 32 members to resign due to “restructuring.” The workers were offered payments and told they would be fired if they did not accept them.
After 22 workers accepted the company offer, the union submitted a complaint to the government employment arbitrator, the Labor Relations Committee (LRC). The company increased its pressure on the union, offering bribes to the president if he dissolved the union, setting up video cameras to record union members, and conducting drug tests on them.
The company also attempted to bribe some of the union members to encourage others to resign. When this failed, the company increased the payout to $6,000 each. Four workers accepted the offer.
At this point the LRC decided in the workers’ favor, and ordered their reinstatement. The company has failed to comply with the order, and has filed a legal appeal.
The union president, Ruangsak Klaimala, was transferred from his supervisor’s position to a newly created manual job at a lower wage. After he submitted a complaint to the LRC, the company laid a defamation charge against him for a post he wrote on social media, and then dismissed him because he had criminal charges against him.
The company has also laid defamation charges against an academic who wrote an article criticizing their practices.
IndustriALL has written to Yamashita calling on the parent company to intervene.
General secretary Valter Sanches wrote, “IndustriALL Global Union urgently calls on Yamashita Rubber to intervene at Y-TEC to create the necessary structures of dialogue and cooperation between management and the union, fully cooperate with the Thai Labor Relations Committee in the mediation process, and ensure the full respect of fundamental workers’ rights.”
In 2015, IndustriALL made a complaint against Thailand to the ILO for failing to uphold labor standards. It appears nothing has changed.