08.03.2010 | news Niels C. Jensen and Pimjai Chaimongkol | photos Niels C. Jensen
At the first level in a four storey house in the Somrong area in Bangkok a group of fired garment workers, from the international recognized underwear brand Triumph, are producing their own brand underwear called Try Arm, with support from various organisations among them the Danish labour union 3F.
Last year around 2000 workers were fired from a Triumph International factory in Bangkok, according to the Triumph International Labour Union they were without the management having the prober negotiations with the workers.
”We think they were fired because the workers union were getting stronger, so the management moved the production to Nakorn Sawan, where salaries are lower and there is no union,” says Jittra Cotshadet who is advisor of the Triumph International Labour Union in Thailand.
Therefore the workers demonstrated and protested four month at the Triumph factory and later on at the Ministry of Labour to get their jobs back or at least have open discussions with the Triumph management.
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Cooperation Try Arm
Meanwhile a group of women had the idea to start their own cooperative and produce their own underwear: They wanted to prove that they have the skills needed, show their protest against Triumph International and of course to have an income.
They decided to name their new brand Try Arm. For one Try Arm sounds familiar to Triumph and second the Try Arm name symbolizes the women’s fight with Triumph International.
“The logo of Try Arm is a red coloured tied fist, also a strong brand for the working class compared to the logo of Triumph which is like a crown, and related to the rich people,” explains Jittra Cotshadet.
Victory to the fired workers
The 28th February the Ministry of Labour decided to support the women and their plans for the Try Arm cooperation, the ministry granted them loans and donated some machines to the ladies.
And with money from different non governmental organizations and the loans from the government Try Arm started their garment production in a rented building in the Somrong area at the 1st of March, until then they had produced the clothing at the union office.
“We got support from different organisations. Oxfarm Belgium helped us go to the big COP15 demonstration in Copenhagen and we have got some in support from the Danish union 3F, which now are paying our rent. And the Clean Clothes Campaign has also helped us a lot,” tells Jittra Cotshadet from Triumph International Labour Union.
The Try Arm cooperation is run by democratic management and the workers are paid by sharing the revenue equally at the end of each month. Very different from the Triumph factory claims one the female workers, Saowanee Saegsawang:
“At the Triumph factory there was a lot of rules and we just had to follow orders. Here I have the possibility to express my opinion. I can for example go directly to the designer and tell him what I think about his designs.”