Underwear Giant sacks Union Leader over T-Shirt
A Thai subsidiary of Triumph International has sacked a trade union president over a slogan on her T shirt.
A Thai subsidiary of Triumph International, one of the world’s largest makers of underwear, has sacked the union president at one of its factories – for wearing a T-Shirt it didn’t like. And she wasn’t even wearing it at work. We’ve heard of crimes against fashion, but sacking union reps for sartorial misdemeanours is surely taking things to far.
It was the slogan on the T Shirt worn by union president Jitra Kotshadej, in a late night TV debate on women’s reproductive rights, that caused the problem: ‘Those who do not stand are not criminals. Thinking differently is not a crime.’ Cryptic to non-Thais, it’s a reference to abuse of ‘lèse-majesté’ legislation to suppress political opposition and the right of people to refrain from standing during the royal anthem.
Lèse majesté refers to offenses against the dignity of the monarch and Thailand is one of the few countries where prosecution for such crimes still takes place – often with political motivation. It’s been used to prosecute social activists as well as a weapon by rival politicians - despite the King’s statement in 2005 that such charges shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“When a union president is dismissed, it inherently raises questions about the company’s motives,” according to Tessel Pauli, Urgent Appeals Coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Dismissing her for a wearing a t-shirt that supports freedom of expression is simply outrageous.”
The Clean Clothes Campaign, which campaigns for labour rights in the garment industry, has called on Triumph International to intervene in the treatment of Ms. Kotshadej by its Thai subsidiary. But so far Triumph has refused to do so, rejecting a petition from the Triumph International Labour Union and distributing a leaflet amongst her striking co-workers, who have walked out in support, stating that the company won’t re-hire her.
So much for Triumph’s Mission Statement, which claims “Our passionate employees are valued as our greatest assets” and “we meet the highest ethical and social standards”.