Intimate apparel maker Triumph International is in talks to end a strike by a group of workers at its Thai production facility, the company told just-style today (11 September), after the chairperson of its union in Thailand was sacked for wearing a T-shirt that insulted the Thai monarchy.

Its comments come in response to a story published on the site yesterday that 2,000 of the 6,000 employees at the Body Fashion Thailand (BFT) factory in Bangplee have walked out in protest at the dismissal.

Triumph says Jitra Kotshadej was fired at the end of a July on a decision by the Thai Labour Court because of publicly insulting laws protecting the dignity of the Thai monarchy, which "caused significant damage to the company."

Ms Kotshadej had appeared on a nationally televised political discussion programme wearing a T-shirt criticising 'lèse-majesté' legislation which protects the dignity of the Thai monarchy.

Insulting the monarchy is a crime in Thailand and an act deeply resented by a considerable part of Thai society. 

Because Ms Kotshadej was introduced as the leader of the Triumph International union, the company says the broadcast led to public calls to boycott Triumph products and "caused severe damage to Triumph's reputation, its business and its employees."

The television appearance has also led to a divide among its workforce, Triumph says, many of whom were outraged at the union leader's public behaviour.

While more than 4,000 unionised workers, supervisors and technical staff are reporting to work each day, 2,000 employees are striking amid calls to rehire the former employee.

Labour rights group the Clean Clothes Campaign has criticised Triumph for denying Ms Kotshadej "the basic human right of freedom of expression."

But the intimate apparel firm stresses BFT has acted in full compliance with Thai labour law and would welcome back all striking employees without any disciplinary action.

It also points out that BFT signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union on 2 July and fully recognises the union and its rights, among them freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

"There are constant negotiations between the BFT management and the union committee, hosted by the Thai Ministry of Labour," Triumph said, adding: "We are positive that a solution will be found very soon."

By Leonie Barrie.