Striking GM Rayong workers take fight to U.S. Embassy, Prime Minister’s Office

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Around 2,000 striking workers at General Motors (Thailand) Co.’s Rayong factory are picketing outside the plant, saying the automaker added a Saturday shift without paying overtime.  Company officials have agreed to meet, but are denying wild claims the company is losing 10 billion baht a day during the strike.

Around 2,000 striking workers at General Motors (Thailand) Co.’s Rayong factory are petitioning the U.S. embassy and Prime Minister’s Office to come to their aide saying the automaker added a Saturday shift without paying overtime.

Forty percent of the 5,000 assembly-line workers at the Chevrolet plant walked off the job Feb. 8 in protest over the extra working day. While 3,000 workers remain on the job, production has tumbled from 600 cars per day to just 100.

Around 2,000 striking workers at General Motors (Thailand) Co.’s Rayong factory are picketing outside the plant, saying the automaker added a Saturday shift without paying overtime.  Company officials have agreed to meet, but are denying wild claims the company is losing 10 billion baht a day during the strike. Around 2,000 striking workers at General Motors (Thailand) Co.’s Rayong factory are picketing outside the plant, saying the automaker added a Saturday shift without paying overtime.  Company officials have agreed to meet, but are denying wild claims the company is losing 10 billion baht a day during the strike.

Workers Union of GM Pluakdaeng-chapter President Suriya Photchailert said workers are prepared to remain on the picket line at least another three months after 30 labor unions around the country pledged cash and food to support the strikers.

Suriya said negotiations with GM have been unsuccessful, even after the union agreed to add a third shift on weekdays, which he argued would offer the company the same production boost without requiring workers to give up their Saturdays.

Union representatives said employees valued their weekends, using the time to spend with family or attend school to further their qualifications in hopes of obtaining better positions at the factory. Requiring them to work Saturday at normal pay wasn’t worth the effort, they said.

Some of the striking workers are airing their grievances under the cover of shade, whilst the others are protesting in front of the factory.Some of the striking workers are airing their grievances under the cover of shade, whilst the others are protesting in front of the factory.

GM (Thailand) spokesman Vigo Vargis said company officials offered to meet with the union March 14. But he denied wild union claims that GM is losing 10 billion baht a day, saying the company’s has enough vehicles in inventory to fulfill its sales channels. During a 10-day strike that halted all production at the Chevy plant in October 2009, General Motors estimated it lost about 200 million baht per day.

Vargis also refuted union picket-line claims that quality has suffered, saying there have been no reports about purported fires or engine problems.

Unable to gain traction with the company, striking unionists traveled to Bangkok beginning March 6, presenting petitions to the Prime Minister’s Office, U.S. Embassy and the Labor Ministry, asking them to uphold a contract they claim prevents GM from adding a Saturday shift at regular pay.