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23 June 2009

Strike halts Thailand train services

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Thailand’s railway commuters are struggling to find alternative routes and carriers to their offices and workplaces as disgruntled State Railway of Thailand (SRT) labour union members went out on strike early Monday, closing down rail services across the kingdom, state news agency TNA reported.

All trains have been suspended throughout the country as the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) labour union is protesting the proposed restructuring of the railways organisation.

The union opposes the Cabinet-approved SRT rehabilitation plan dividing the state enterprise into corporate units by setting up separate subsidiaries to run the SRT’s airport link project and to manage its assets.

Union chairman Sawit Kaewwan said in a local television interview that the union didn’t oppose the airport link but that the SRT executives and the government proceeded to establish the two subsidiaries without consulting with its membership.

Nearly three weeks ago the union submitted a letter to the government opposing the June 3 Cabinet decision adopting the rehabilitation plan but received no acknowledgement, he said.

Trains will resume service if the government puts the restructuring plan on hold and started negotiation with the union, Sawit said.

The union claims that establishment of the two subsidiaries will lead to the State Railways being run by the private sector and will cause higher fares in the future.

Meanwhile, SRT governor Yutthana Thapcharoen interviewed on the same programme Monday morning said he would meet the labour union this afternoon to negotiate.

The SRT chief said he knew about the planned strike and was scheduled to meet the union chairman Tuesday afternoon, but it was rescheduled for Monday afternoon.

He clarified that the SRT will hold 100 percent of shares in both subsidiaries but some groups of railway employees misunderstood the national railways restructuring plan and the issue must be clarified to its employees.

The restructuring plan is aimed at creating income for the SRT, which has been running at a loss for some years, he said. 


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