Contract plan upsets Exat staff

Contract plan upsets Exat staff

Bigger say urged on BEM deal

A bird's eye view of Bangkok expressway. (Bangkok Post file photo)
A bird's eye view of Bangkok expressway. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Thousands of employees at the Expressway Authority of Thailand (Exat) have signed a petition opposing the board's decision to offer extended contracts to Bangkok Expressway and Metro Plc (BEM) in exchange for the settlement of legal disputes.

A source close to the workers' union said the state enterprise employees will step up pressure and ask the Exat board to review its decision when it meets on Feb 21 because the offer which will see BEM operate the second-stage expressway system for another 37 years is not in the best public interest.

BEM built and operates the second-stage expressway system and the concession will expire next year.

According to the source, the employees want the issue to be handled in a transparent manner and other stakeholders should have a say in the issue especially the period of contract extension.

"We feel obliged to protect the national interest," said the source.

It is reported the proposed contract extension is part of the negotiations between Exat and BEM as they try to settle legal disputes.

Exat lost a court battle last year when it was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay 4 billion baht in damages to the Northern Bangkok Expressway Company Limited (Necl), a subsidiary of BEM, over a dispute involving the Pak Kret-Bang Pa-in expressway.

The court's decision is associated with the construction and operation of Exat's Don Muang Tollway linking the National Memorial and Rangsit, which NECL claims to be a conflict of interest with its Bang Pa-in-Pak Kret Expressway, where terms and conditions state the expressway is a non-competitive operation.

The source said this is the only legal dispute that the Exat has lost and has to follow the court's ruling on, adding that it is "too easy" to award an extended contract for 37 years to settle all disputes with BEM and its subsidiary.

It is reported there are at least 10 legal disputes between the expressway agency and the firm.

The source said the Exat board must explain how it came up with the period of 37 years and the compensation figure of 170 billion baht when the court awarded BEM the compensation of 4.3 billion baht.

On Feb 7, the BEM said the board agreed to submit to its shareholders for approval next month a proposal in which the company would settle legal disputes with Exat in exchange for extended concessions for the second stage expressway system.

The firm claimed there are legal disputes with Exat worth 54 billion baht already in court and several related disputes which are pending. As of December last year, the values of those disputes including interest were estimated at a combined 137.5 billion baht.

According to the company, the Exat agreed to revise concession contracts by allowing it to improve the second stage expressway system under a budget of 31.5 billion baht and extending the concession for operating the second stage expressway until 2057.

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