11 June 2014 – Dismissed rail union branch leaders in Thailand returned to work last week in a workers’ victory.
The case started in October 2009 following a series of rail accidents, one of which killed seven people. Members of the ITF-affiliated State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand took action over their multiple concerns about rail safety. Just 12% percent of Thai trains were fitted with a deadman’s handle – a key safety device – and this was broken on the train involved in the fatal crash. Further, the driver had had just one day’s rest in the thirty preceding the accident.
Rather than addressing the union’s concerns, State Railway Thailand (SRT) management retaliated with dismissals and prolonged legal action. This culminated in the eventual dismissal of seven national SRUT leaders, who were also fined THB 15 million (USD 458, 000). Six Hat-Yai branch leaders were also dismissed during the dispute.
There was worldwide support for the workers, including campaigning by the ITF and its unions and a joint submission to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The SRUT persisted in its campaign in Thailand, and a committee of union and employers began discussing the case in March 2013.
On 3 June, the committee’s decision to reinstate the dismissed Hat-Yai leaders came to fruition when the SRT governor signed reinstatement orders. They will receive full back pay. It is anticipated that the national leaders will follow suit this month.
ITF inland transport secretary Mac Urata said: “While we remain vigilant until all are reinstated, this is a tremendous win for the unions and for the ITF. The SRUT has campaigned fiercely for this result, and with repeated high level support we’re delighted about this outcome.”