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MMI Women Workers need international Solidarity Support


Thailand has become one of the world largest production bases for HDD and related components. Thailand has clusters of firms producing large volumes of HDD, HGA, and spindle motor. Thailand is a production base of Seagate, IBM, and Fujitsu which are the world’s largest, third largest and sixth largest HDD producers. These three companies’ aggregate, market share are as much as 45 % of world’s market. MMI was established in 1989 and was listed on the Main Board of Singapore Exchange in 1997.

MMI is an Electro-Mechanical Systems Contract Manufacturer with capabilities in precision machining components, turnkey contract assembly, factory automation and systems integration. It has manufacturing facilities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China. It has dedicated factories and organisations to meet the different needs of both high volume low mix manufacturing as well as low volume high mix requirements. TPW Indutries (Thailand) Co. Ltd was established in 1989 to produce magnetic recording heads for Seagate. Richard Rudybird, a swiss investor, and MMI Holding Singapore jointly owned the company. On 2nd September, 2002 TPW changed its name to MMI Precision (Thailand), with the new management namely Teh Bong Lim, Kai Tong Ho and Kok Yin Tong. MMI Precision (Thailand) is a subsidiary company of MMI Holding in Singapore. The company produces magnetic recording heads for Seagate NMB ­ the biggest hard disk drive producer of the world employing 3,000 women workers. MMI aims to become a market leader in electro-mechanical systems and contract manufacturing in global markets such as data storage, telecommunications, semiconductors, and computer peripherals. Hard disk drive is among the most profitable products; over the past two decades production of hard disk drive grew to expand considerably; and this was also true for the case of MMI Precision (Thailand) which produces mainly hard disk drive and ‘cover and base’. During this high growth period, the number of women workers employed at the plant increased rapidly. In spite of the huge profit generated from the production of hard disk drive, the livelihoods of the women workers remained harsh as ever. Work at MMI required the women to stand for long hours. In the QC department the women work under high tension and speed to check quality of the tiny pieces components of hard disk drive. While in aluminum melting department, apart from toxic ­ aluminum-oxide - the women workers experienced heat, dusk and noises.

Working conditions and contract workers of MMI

Wages are low at MMI. Workers with over 5 years of service earn between baht 170 and 190 per day (or baht 7,500 per month). And workers are forced to work overtime during the period when there are lots of order; and are forced to accept wage cut up to 50 per cent when there is less order and the company does not need full workforce. The number of women workers employed at the factory has also reduced over the past years, and workers are subject to time-work discipline as well as the pressure of meeting the required quota for the day.

The women workers formed a union in 1991, and the union has been exercising their collective bargaining right. In 1999 the company started to employed contract workers through labour agencies; at the same time began to lay off regular workers by using tactics that either forced them to resign voluntarily or dismissed them with compensation. The number of regular workers was later reduced to 1,000 while the number of contract workers employed through 4 labour agencies increased to 2,000. MMI pays baht 250 per day for each contract worker to labour agencies who then pays baht 169 to the worker employed on a given day. The labour agencies thus gain at least baht 50 per worker per day as commission, or at least baht 100,000 per day for all contract workers employed. Moreover each contract worker must pay baht 1,000 to the labour agencies as ‘training fee’, and baht 280 for one set of uniform they are required to wear at work (each worker needs at least 4 uniforms thus pay baht 1,120 for uniforms alone).

Women and children Issues

Women workers from the labour supplier are forced to abort their unborn babies due to fear of being dismissed. This amounts to murder and that to premeditated. There are many cases of this nature in MMI (Thailand). There was a labour case pending for non payment of maternity benefits by the labour supplier companies. This case was won by the worker.

There is a financial clerk called Angkana Chotesang who has warned the women workers of the labour suppliers, that in the event of pregnancy, the women worker will be dismissed.

The labour suppliers does not pay the workers in time, giving various excuses that MMI (Thailand) has not paid them. Then they loan the workers money with an interest of 20%, for the worker to meet their commitments.

Contract workers are not protected by the labour law. And the company imposes a regulation whereby women workers employed less than one year are not allowed to get pregnant; and they would be fired immediately for failing to observe this regulation. A worker is required to submit a doctor certificate once declaring a sick leave ­ even for one day; failing to do so would automatically exempt the management from paying the worker his/her daily wage. Contract workers are also being discriminated against in terms of welfare benefits. Through collective bargaining, regular workers have been able to negotiate for 3 new sets of uniforms and 2 pairs of shoes per year plus baht 450 diligence pay and some bonus. On the contrary, benefits enjoyed by contract workers are baht 150 diligence pay, without annual bonus payment. Contract workers are also subject to conditions such as scorning, rotation and dismissal without compensation once failing to comply with the management’s orders. Contract workers do not join union since they fear losing their jobs. This in turn weakened the union as the management can easily bust the union facing declining membership. As a consequence, regular workers constantly lost their benefits secured through collective bargaining over the past years. Moreover, the management often failed to comply with the CBA to the extent that the union had to file a legal suit with the labour court.

Apart from employing agency workers to work in the assembly line, MMI has been outsourcing parts of the production to small factories in the outskirts of Bangkok. At present, there are at least 7 factories employing around 300 workers. MMI invests into the machinery of these small factories. Workers employed in these small subcontracting factories are undocumented, paid below minimum wage (baht 120-130 per day), lack labour law protection, and have no social security benefits. Without proper inspection of the Ministry of Labour’s authority, workers in the small factories are subject to hazardous working conditions.

Labour union and MMI company

Labour-management conflict at MMI became more apparent with the election of new union executives in 2001 ­ replacing the former union executives with whom the management successfully cooped. The new union executives brought a new life to the union and revived their collective bargaining right by which in 2002 it demanded the management to stop using labour agency and transform the contract workers into regular workers as well as 2 months bonus for all the workers. The dead lock negotiation led to a strike and a subsequent acceptance of the union demand on bonus payment by the management.

In 2003 the management failed to comply with several points in the collective bargaining agreement eg. annual bonus, uniform, financial support for the union’s congress etc. The union then filed a lawsuit with the labour court as the management breached the collective bargaining agreement.

On 29th May 2003 the management sought the court order to dismiss Ms Suthila Leunkam and 2 workers’ supervisors on the grounds of damaging the company’s business. This was in relation to the occasion that 48 workers took half a day off on 7th April 2003, as they were confused with the changing holiday announced by the company. This court case is still pending.

Also in 2003 the union submitted a list of demands for CBA ­ the demands include company provision of day care centre, special allowance of baht 300 for pregnant workers for the period of 6 months, abolishment of employment through labour agency and 2 months bonus. However the company reacted by moving machinery out of the factory, and led the workers to believe that the factory would soon be closed down. The union interpreted this situation that the company moved the machinery for production outside the factory, which would then lead to a lay off during the union negotiation for new CBA. The management at the same time gave information that the company had been facing financial difficulty. On the other side, 200 new workers were employed through the labour agencies.

Our demands for the current (2003) collective bargaining are:

The union then filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. Nonetheless the management continued to move the machinery to other factories. And the labour dispute could not be resolved. The union with the support of the Democratic Labour Union Alliance then decided to lodge a complaint with the Prime Minister on 15th October 2003 regarding the management moving machinery to other locations and the management’s violation of trade union rights.

The union call for International Solidarity Supports

The 1400 workers who have been locked out on 9th. December 2003 over the dispute on collective bargaining and on the question of outsourcing work, would like to bring to your Kind attention and appeal to you to campaign and thus help us redress not only our grievances but the discrimination of women workers in Thailand and all over the world.

The union calls for international solidarity support of the international trade union movement, consumers as well as NGO organisations to pressure to the company to withdraw lock-out and to support for the unions’ demands as follows:

1. Corporate Responsibility. The US based Seagate company shall take a responsibility to the case of labour-management dispute at MMI Precision (Thailand) Ltd ­ since MMI and Seagate have been business partners for several years, by which MMI has been awarded ‘Seagate Outstanding Supplier Award (4th Year)’. Please send letters of telephone call demanding for the responsibility of Seagate to the following address:
Sr. Director, Investor Relations
Katie Ciciarelli
Manager, Investor Relations
Email: stx@seagate.com
IR-dedicated phone: (831) 439-5337

2. Send letters to MMI Holding Singapore; demanding the company to withdraw lock-outed and to abolish employment of workers through labour agency and transform the contract workers into regular workers, as well as respond to other demands of the union. The letters to MMI Holding Singapore can be sent to the following address:
MMI Holding, No. 29 Woodlands Industrial Park E1 # 01-16 Northtech Building Singapore 757716
Email : BL Teh blteh@mmi.com.sg

3. Send protest letter or telephone call to Labour minister of Thailand demanding to settle-dawn the MMI labour dispute immediately as following address :
Labour Minister Mrs. Uraiwan Thienthong
Mitmaitree Rd, Dindieng
Bangkok 10400 Thailand
Fax 02-6434457
Tel/Fax 02-2321054 / 02-2475572

4. All of your letter-copies shall be sent to :
Center for Labour Informaion Service and Training (clist)
166/23 Nattagan 3 Paholyothin 52 Klongtanon Saimai Bangkok Thailand
Tel 01-8229477
Tel/Fax 02-9727035
Email Address : clist@loxinfo.co.th

5. Financial support donation for continuning struggling also welcome and can be send to this bank account:
Bank Name : Siam City Bank
Branch: Navanakorn ,Pathumtanee
Account Name : Strike Fund of Computer Part Labour Union
Account Number : 082-2-10915-0

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