A coalition of labour unions, NGOs and labour support groups filed a complaint against Swiss undergarment manufacturer Triumph International for carrying out massive layoffs without consulting unions in Thailand and the Philippines.
In August 2009, nearly 2,000 workers were suddenly retrenched at the companys Thai factory, cutting the factorys workforce in half. In the Philippines, 1,663 workers lost their jobs when the company closed two factories. In all three factories, the majority of the workers who were laid off were union members, including union leaders.
The complaint alleges that factory management repeatedly demonstrated anti-union behaviour and that the massive layoffs were managements retaliation in a long conflict with the unions. By not consulting the unions about the layoffs and failing to negotiate a social plan for the workers, the complainants contend Triumph has breached the OECD Guidelines.
The local unions attempts to contact top management at the company Swiss headquarters, including an invitation for direct talks with Triumph CEO Markus Spiesshofer, were rejected.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.9
- Version 2000 Chapter IV
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.1 Subparagraph IV.1.A
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.A
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.B
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.C
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.3
- Version 2000 Chapter VII
- Version 2000 Chapter VII Paragraph VII.4
The Swiss NCP accepted the case as a specific instance in February 2010 and then proceeded to consult with the parties to establish the terms for handling the case.
In subsequent developments, Triumph relinquished tenancy of one of its factories in the Philippines to Food Terminal Inc. (FTI). In April 2010, FTI obtained a temporary restraining order ordering the former Triumph workers to vacate their picket lines, while stating the workers’ actions were unlawful, illegal, and embarrassing. In response, the complainants have called on the Philippine government to stop the implementation of the restraining order. They also called on FTI and the Philippine government to support their call to operate the closed Triumph factory.
Triumph initially appeared to be open to the NCP process, but later refused to enter any mediation meetings in which the issue at the core of the complaint would be discussed.
Seeing the case as deadlocked, the Swiss NCP decided to closed the case in January 2011. In its final statement, the NCP does not make any assessment of whether Triumphs actions were in breach of the OECD Guidelines , nor does it make recommendations to enhance implementation of the Guidelines. Moreover, the NCP refused to hold meetings in Thailand or the Philippines and was also not willing to provide funding to help bring the victims to Switzerland or for translation of key documents. This made the involvement of the local complainants and the victims of the abuses more difficult and hindered their ability to access the mechanism.
The complainants and the Clean Clothes Campaign criticise the Swiss NCP for allowing the company’s refusal to enter into mediation to kill the process without resolution or even a single meeting between the parties. The complainants have expressed concerns about the willingness of the Swiss NCP to perform its role as an unbiased mediator.