Thai Airways union backs down, supports bankruptcy court-led restructuring

BANGKOK, May 20 (Reuters) - The Thai Airways workers’ union will not oppose the government’s plan to reduce holdings in the airline and petition for restructuring with the bankruptcy court, the union’s president said on Wednesday.

The reversal comes after a cabinet decision on Tuesday to reduce the government’s holding in the national carrier to below 50%, stripping the airline of its state enterprise status.

“We opposed this position before but after reexamination … we have to show creditors that Thai Airways will genuinely follow the restructuring plan including adjustments to the board and staff,” union president Nares Peung-yaem told Reuters.

The union had previously said it would protest any plan that would reduce the government’s shareholding to less than 50%.

Under Thai law, state-owned companies are governed by another set of management and labour regulations.

The Ministry of Finance currently holds 51.03% in the airline.

After the government finds buyers for its shares and the airline loses its status as a state enterprise, its union would also be dissolved.

“This is a painful reality … we will hold discussions with the Transport Ministry to ensure workers are taken care of,” Nares said, adding a new union would be formed under labour laws.

Thai Airways shares were up nearly 15% at 0800 GMT, but down 21% year to date. (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; editing by Jason Neely)