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Laid-off Triumph workers have decided to end their 8-month-long rally, but continue to produce their own Try Arm underwear with 250 sewing machines donated by the Ministry of Labour.

The workers have been protesting against Body Fashion Co, a subsidiary of Triumph International, since July 2009, and have occupied the ground floor of the Ministry of Labour as their rally site since 13 Oct 2009.

On 22 Feb, Mr.Somkiat Chayasriwong, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, signed an agreement with the workers’ representative Jitra Kotchadej, to give 250 sewing machines to the workers to help them to move on with their careers.

Jitra said that the workers were not really satisfied with this option, but had to accept it because they had protested for 8 months, and their problems were unlikely to be solved.  And they had to make a living.  The 250 sewing machines will be distributed to the workers according to their needs, and those who do not receive one will get 2,000 baht each from the sales of Try Arm underwear.

On 27 Feb, they will hold a public forum to talk about their struggle over the last 8 months and their next step.  They will move out of the premises on 28 Feb.

‘To end the rally at the Ministry does not mean we give up our fight, but it will take another form, without staging protests,’ Jitra said, adding that they had used several means including abandoning work, slow-downs or long protests, but they had not yielded results.

They will continue to produce Try Arm products, with 60 workers interested in joining as of now.  They are now looking for a production site and donations of more sewing machines.   

Jitra and Bunrod Saiwong, Secretary General of the Triumph Labour Union, have been charged by police for leading their fellow workers to protest at Government House and Parliament on 27 Aug 2009.  The prosecutor will bring their case to court on 15 March.

According to the workers, Body Fashion (Thailand) Ltd laid off 1,959 workers or 50% of the workforce at its Bang Phli factory in Aug 2009, citing the need to ‘adjust the long-term cost structure’.  At the same time it set up a new factory in Nakhon Sawan, with financial support from the Board of Investment (BOI), and hired over 1,000 workers who have not formed a labour union.   

Those who wish to make donations to the workers can reach Jitra Kotchadej at [email protected] or Thanyathorn Khirithawornphat at [email protected].   

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