2 May 2013 – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), its affiliated union the State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT), the Thai State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have joined together to make a complaint against the Thai government to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The complaint to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association alleges that the Kingdom of Thailand is in gross violation of the international norms on trade union rights set out in ILO conventions 87 and 98 and that this has been highlighted by its having allowed the State Railways of Thailand (SRT) to victimise trade union members for exposing serious safety breaches on the country’s rail network.
The case centers on the dismissal of 13 union leaders and branch officials who took part in an occupational health and safety initiative in October 2009 to publicise the serious rail safety failings which led to two derailments and one fatal accident in four days that month. The accident killed seven and injured many others. The driver had had one rest day in the previous 30 days. The driver’s ‘deadman’s handle’ system was not working, and, unbelievably, only 20 per cent of locomotives were even equipped with such a fundamental piece of equipment, according to the union. The initiative involved 1200 SRUT members who refused to drive trains with faulty or missing deadman’s handles.
As well as dismissing the union leaders for their part in raising the hazards faced on the crumbling rail system, the SRT took the SRUT to court to try to impose punitive damages. Despite international protests and against all legal opinion the dismissals have been allowed to stand by the Thai courts. Their decision has led to the complainants taking this latest action.
ITF inland transport section secretary Mac Urata commented: “The injustice is manifest – these trade unionists sacked, their union targeted for massive damages totalling millions of dollars, and all for exposing serious safety dangers. The SRT has been able to get away with its behaviour because of its closeness to government and the government’s continuing to allow legislation that stifles the rights of workers in public enterprises. These injustices are what we are asking the ILO to rule on.”
For more on the background to the case please see www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/thai-railway-workers.cfm