THAI AIRWAYS International's new chairman Prajin Juntong yesterday expressed concern over the national carrier's poor financial performance and asked management to work even harder to beat barriers to turn its ailing operation profitable again.
‘‘The chairman tells us to ‘aim high’ at a time the company is facing a crisis,’’ acting president Chokchai Panyayong said.
Prajin wants the airline to become stronger, so the role of the committee tasked with increasing work efficiency should be tightened to help the company save operating costs and also minimise work complexity.
The risk management committee would also play a greater role in handling effectively possible problems such as foreign exchange and fuel-price swings.
It was the first time for Prajin to chair a board meeting after he was appointed on March 10 to succeed Ampon Kittiampon, who resigned mid-term.
Prajin did not fulfil his commitment to appear at the afternoon press conference. A THAI public relations officer said the board meeting was long and left him no time to meet the media.
Eventually, Chokchai, also senior executive vice president for strategy and business development, was asked by PR to answer unclear issues against the backdrop of the morning rally at the head office on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road.
Prajin’s first meeting was challenged by a protest at 9am of 150-200 members of two employees’ unions – the Thai Airways International Union and Wingspan Workers’ Union.
The THAI Union in a statement urged the board to refuse any involvement of ex-chairman Ampon in positions or operating committees. Ampon, who remains a board member, has already taken positions in government agencies and educational institutions and this left him no time to contribute to THAI. Most important, he had also mismanaged the carrier, resulting in its losing Bt12 billion last year, it said.
The Wingspan Workers’ Union, whose staff works with Wingspan Services Co, a THAI subsidiary, called for Prajin to treat them fairly with good benefits. They have suffered from unstable jobs with a blurred future, they said. Wingspan has an outsourcing contract with THAI to supply staff to the carrier. Under the agreement, more than 3,000 people are working with THAI, mainly as day hires.
Samart Pantang, president of Wingspan Workers’ Union, submitted a letter to Prajin and he accepted it for consideration. He did not show any commitment to the union, but said generally that he wanted everybody in operations to work happily.
Samart said that if the problem is not solved, the union will stage a work stoppage on Tuesday.
Chokchai said he was not worried about a protest on April 1. The union can do it under labour laws for employees, while THAI can respond under labour laws for employers.