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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Rail strike a disgrace to the union
“Shame on you!” appear to be too lenient the words used to describe the deplorable actions by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) unionists in their treatment of tens of thousands passengers in the past five days.
On Sunday alone, as many as 4,000 passengers travelling on the long-haul route between Bangkok and the Deep South were dumped at train stations in Chumporn and Surat Thani provinces in the middle of the night when the drivers suddenly refused to continue the journey and told the baffled passengers just to leave the trains. As a result, the passengers, several of them elderly people and children, had to spend the night on the railway platforms amidst buzzing mosquitoes while waiting for buses hurriedly arranged by station masters to pick them up to carry on with the journey to their destinations or to the nearest train stations where services were not disrupted.
The disruption of the long-haul train services during the weekend which followed the suspension of short-haul services in several localities since last Friday was seen as the union’s escalation of pressure on the management to heed their demands – one of which is the dismissal of the SRT governor Yutthaya Thapcharoen for alleged mismanagement and the other is the fixing of the faulty locomotives. But the real reason of the services stoppage is probably the union’s fear of planned partial privatization of the rail services.
SRT union leader Savit Kaewwarn blamed a string of train accidents in the past couple of weeks to the management’s failure to tend to the faulty locomotives. But the worst train accident in many years which occurred a week ago in Hua Hin was attributable to the driver who reportedly went blackout behind the wheel. Savit claimed that the strike was prompted by the union’s concern for the safety of the passengers.
But what a joke! Stop the bull…. please, Mr Savit. Many train passengers are not rich and cannot afford air or bus fares. But they are definitely not dump and they do not munch grass like a buffalo. Spare your sugar-coated words for yourself because you may need them afterward when you are required to defend yourself for the irresponsible and senseless actions of the union.
Aside from the unnecessary hardships and inconveniences caused to the passengers, the unionists’s work stoppage has costed the SRT about 15 million baht in damages and lost revenue a day during the past five days. Damages to the tourism and the other industries are yet to be accounted for. Not to mention the already poor image and credibility of the SRT which will be rendered more blows.
The union’s demands for the replacement of the governor and the improvement of the locomotives are an internal affairs of the SRT which must be settled through negotiations probably with the participation of a third party in case the two opposing parties cannot settle the problem themselves in an amicable manner.
And if the union leadership still has any sense of responsibility at all, it must immediately put an end to the strike and then return to the negotiating table.
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