BANGKOK — The labor union of the national flag carrier on Thursday rejected the government’s bailout proposal, which is said to open the possibility of the airline becoming a privately-owned company.
The Thai Airways International Union, which represents about 6,000 employees of the debt-ridden airline, said in its statement that the government must drop any rehabilitation measures that would strip the government of its major shares in the airline.
“The union is willing to cooperate with the government in rejuvenating the company, but we oppose plans to restructure the company that will result in the loss of its state enterprise status,” the statement wrote. “Thai Airways is the national airline.”
The government had previously approved the proposal for short and long term business rehabilitation plans, as well as a 54 billion baht bridge loan, for the struggling airline.
“I have already given five years, but they are still unable to achieve it,” PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said Tuesday. “This will be the last chance and I ask cooperation from the union because this means your life and death.”
Even before the coronavirus outbreak forced airlines worldwide to ground their fleets, Thai Airways had already suffered a growing financial loss over several consecutive years.
According to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Thai Airways posted a net loss of 11.6 billion baht in 2018, rising sharply from 2.11 billion baht in 2017. The company has not made any profits since 2013, with the exception of 2016, when it was able to achieve a paltry profit of 15 million baht.
Details of the bailout package are yet to be announced, though sources said that it may cover plans to reduce the Ministry of Finance’s shares from the current 51 percent to 48 percent.
Business units such as catering and ground handling services under its wing will also become subsidiaries to provide more liquidity. Employees and fleets are also expected to be downsized as well, the source said.
If the measures are approved by the Cabinet, the government will lose its majority share in the airline, stripping Thai Airways of its state-owned enterprise status. The union said this could lead to interference from “outside interests.”
The bailout also drew criticism from netizens, who say the government should use their money to alleviate the hardship of the common people during the economic downturn caused by the current pandemic
“Before helping Thai Airways, should you not help those who are unemployed and starving instead?” user @icyremy tweeted.
“If Thai Airways is really the national carrier, then you should give free mileage to every Thai citizen because you have already used millions of taxpayer money.” user @sleeplessbkk tweeted. “Millions of people who never get to fly Thai Airways have to pay their taxes to keep the business alive.”