Monday, September 1, 2008

Thailand's state enterprise labor unions stage strikes

By Post Reporters

Forty-three state enterprise labour unions under control of People's Alliance for Democracy organisers have agreed to stage strikes and to selectively cut water and electricity, halt Bangkok buses and delay all Thai International Airways flights beginning on Wednesday. The aim is to help PAD to force the government out of office.

Sawit Kaewwan, secretary-general of the State Enterprise Labour Relations Confederation and a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, said the unions will begin by cutting water and electricity supplies to provincial police offices - and then to other selected targets.

Telephone lines to government agencies and the homes of cabinet ministers will be cut.

Flights of Thai International flights will be delayed nationwide and about 80 per cent of Bangkok buses will stop running. In a reversal of the policy, train service was restored yesterday to the Northeast and North.

A union representative told the union meeting that the 7,500 staf of the Government Savings Bank will "follow the confederation's resolution."

Mr Sawit claimed the plan to cut essential services was in response to the use of force against PAD supporters.

Fellow PAD radical Sirichai Mai-ngam, president of the labour union at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, said the announcement of the confederation was only a threat, but then immediately said it would be put into action. The moves by the PAD-friendly labour unions were intended to protect the interests of the nation and were not for the benefit of state enterprise workers.

The confederation has 43 state enterprise labour unions with more than 200,000 members, Mr Sirichai said.

"Today is our D-Day. We have given them [the government] many chances.

"If the government does not resign, we will continue our operations until it quits," Mr Sawit said.

Boonma Pongma, vice-president of the BMTA's union, said there will be only 800 free red-cream buses left to serve Bangkok commuters, or about 20% of the whole fleet.

Somsak Manop, vice-president of Thai Airways International's union, said the union will delay the arrival and departure times of THAI aircraft and will reduce the number of flights.

Thammarat Ramkwan, president of the Provincial Waterworks Authority's union, said the union will initially cut water supplies to police stations across the country.

Phien Yongnoo, president of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority's labour union, said the union was considering cutting off the power supply to help the PAD pressure the government.

However, the power supply cut would be applied to government agencies whose bills were overdue by one month.

"We will hold a discussion to consider whether the cut-off period could be shorter than one month. It should be one week or whatever. We will do everything to achieve our goal of pressuring the government," he said.

However, at least three labour unions from state-run banks disagreed with the planned strike.

Kusol Boonklom, president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives' labour union, said members of the BAAC union needed to discuss the planned strike among themselves first.

Natthapat Yimyai, president of the Government Savings Bank's labour union, said his members had varying views on whether to join the strike.

Somsak Boonthong, chairman of the SRT's board, said the board is considering whether to resign following the stoppages by railway workers.

"The move by the SRT union to stop rail services was wrong, so we are considering resigning and taking responsibility," he said. The board is expected to make a decision in two days, he said.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej called an urgent meeting yesterday to discuss the union stance with leaders of the People Power party.

PM's Office Minister Chusak Sirinil said the prime minister stressed the importance of legal means to deal with the protesters.

Meanwhile, northern and northeastern train services resumed yesterday after hundreds of railway workers went on strike last week and paralysed the country's rail system.

In Nakhon Ratchasima province, State Railway of Thailand governor Yutthana Sapcharoen held talks with railway workers and persuaded them to cancel the strike.

The first northeastern train, on the Nakhon Ratchasima-Surin route, left at 6pm, while northeastern-bound services from Bangkok were expected to resume last night.

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