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Thai Union slams Thai Airways move to slash leave days

The labour union of Thai Airways International is protesting changes to the ailing flag carrier’s employment contract, which its employees were asked to agree to as part of its financial rehabilitation programme.

The contract, the union’s representatives said, is unfair to THAI employees as it entitles them to fewer leave days and shorter holidays, so a formal complaint has been filed with the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

As part of THAI’s attempt to reduce operating costs as it undergoes debt rehabilitation supervised by the Central Bankruptcy Court, the airline rolled out an early retirement programme for its executives.

Last month, the flag carrier said it had cut some 240 positions from its 21,000-strong workforce.

The airline’s rehab scheme — which includes the plan to offer new employment contracts to staff who continue to work with the company — is set to be presented to the CBC later on Tuesday.

An adviser to THAI’s labour union, Nares Puengyam, said those who elect to remain and/or were asked to stay in their positions will be asked to forfeit the contracts they signed before the company went into debt rehab.

However, the new contract trims the number of public holidays the staff are entitled to receive and substantially slashes leave days. 

For example, those employed for 20-30 years will see their public holidays reduced from 17 days a year under the old contracts to 13 days. Their leave days will also be cut from 24 days a year to just six. 

The company argued that the old contracts were governed by the State Enterprise Relations Act (2000) and since THAI is no longer a state enterprise, the act is no longer binding on the airline. 

THAI lost its status as a state-owned enterprise last year when the Finance Ministry reduced its stake in the airline to under 50% to facilitate the rehab process.

Mr Nares stressed that under the Labour Protection Act (1998), a company must hold talks with its employees before changing the terms of employment. 

He urged the department to investigate whether any employees had been coerced into signing the new contract.

The union adviser said he has been informed by a source that some employees had been warned their careers might be in jeopardy if they refuse to accept the new contract.

“We want everyone in the company to move to a new phase in an amicable and truly consenting manner,” he said. 

Mr Nares said the department has invited the company and the union to discuss a solution on March 11. 

The CBC approved THAI’s recovery plan in the middle of last year after the coronavirus pandemic grounded most of its fleet, adding to its woes.

The airline is in debt to the tune of 332 billion baht, according to figures posted on the Stock Exchange of Thailand website.

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