Bangkok airport workers protest attack on rights

Workers at Bangkok airport yesterday protested ongoing labour abuse at the airport that has stripped them of basic rights, including access to toilets. It has led to forced resignations and arbitrary dismissals, as well as the termination of most of their union committee.

The moves at Bangkok airport, operated by the Airports of Thailand Public Company (AOT) suggest a deliberate plan to cut costs, avoid redundancy payments and circumvent recognition of years of service while continuing to retain workers with years of experience.

These employer tactics echo a growing global trend of companies exploiting the pandemic to widen profit margins at the expense of workers. The ITF stands in solidarity with the Wingspan Workers Union and Airport Workers Union of Thailand as they fight back.

Security and X-ray staff at Bangkok airport who worked for ASM Security Management Company Limited (ASM) say they were coerced into resigning and taking up new contracts with AOT Aviation Security Company Limited (AVSEC) in April 2020. These contracts offer much worse terms and conditions for the same work.

Other workers have been let go because they allegedly do not have the right qualifications for jobs that they have been doing for years. “Management said I could continue to work because of my 15 years of work experience in airport security, but then they fired me because I never finished primary school,” said Praew, a traffic security worker.

Shockingly, AVSEC security workers are now also being forced to work eight-hour shifts without toilet or lunch breaks. This has led to workers wetting or soiling themselves on the job and to several women developing urinary tract infections.

“In what workplace is it okay to force workers into such humiliating and degrading conditions? Going to the toilet is a basic human need, not a luxury, and AVSEC has a duty to provide staff with access to toilets whenever they need it,” says Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary. “Employers have a choice in how they respond to this crisis. They can properly engage with unions to find sustainable solutions, or they can sow the seeds for a future labour crisis.”

Other workers have been unfairly terminated, forced to accept reductions on leave allocation to below the minimum allowed under Thai labour law, or forced to take leave without pay.

The Wingspan Services Company, which also provides services at Bangkok airport, meanwhile terminated the employment contracts of most workers on the committee of the Wingspan Workers Union and Airport Workers Union of Thailand (WWU&AWT). This was despite other jobs being available, suggesting a planned targeting of unionised workers.

The Airports of Thailand Public Company (AOT) must ensure the airports they own and operate do not violate international labour standards.

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