Are striking railway workers also traitors?

28 10 2009

PPT has been watching the stories on the strike at the State Railways of Thailand (Bangkok Post, 27 October 2008: “Cabinet approves hiring of new rail staff”). The Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government has now decided to act as strike breaker. There is no surprise there. The Democrat Party has never been particularly supportive of labor or labor rights, reflecting their links to the business and royalist elements of the elite.

The only observation we’d make is to point out that it was state enterprise workers who began the rallies against Thaksin Shinawatra and who were serious opponents for a series of previous governments.

There is also talk amongst Democrat Party ministers and in its cheer leading press calling for the privatization of the SRT. Again, proposals for the privatization of state enterprises were amongst those that set the state enterprise unions against Thaksin and into the PAD fold.

While PPT can well imagine that PAD and unionists might join the NGOs that remain signed up to the anti-Thaksin fight and so ignore direct challenges to their core interests, the Democrat Party is playing a risky game here. Sure, the middle class public in Bangkok will cheer the government, but they have always cheered anti-union actions. The state enterprise unions are, however, serious political actors.

Update: The Bangkok Post (28 October 2009: “Rail staff accused of train sabotage”) suggests that the royalist government is considers itself to be facing “traitors” in many areas. In this increasingly bitter strike, the management of the SRT has accused workers of attempting to block a train being driven by a strike-breaking employee.

It is not surprise that the 10 workers targeted are all union members and leaders: “SRT governor Yutthana Thapcharoen said railway management had decided the staff allegedly responsible would have to be fired for severe misconduct.” This is standard tactics by employers in Thailand’s private sector but may be more difficult against state enterprise workers.

The report states that an SRT source “said about 10 key union members were singled out for dismissal. They were accused of persuading railway workers in the South and the Central Plains to strike.” Traitorous acts in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand?

The strike-breaking driver “said the SRT management ordered him to file a complaint with police against local union members.”

Meanwhile, “railway union members yesterday filed a complaint with the senate committee on human rights, liberty and consumer protection.” It will be interesting to see how this committee responds for it is dominated by PAD supporters and PAD received strong state enterprise union support. At the same time, these mainly appointed senators are also self-appointed protectors of middle-class interests, so they are almost naturally opposed to unions and union action.

The panel will discuss the complaint tomorrow.


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