Malaysia Airlines unfairly targeting union members, says rights coalition

In a statement, the coalition said the airline is violating worker and trade union rights by taking disciplinary action against members of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) for holding a protest against MAS’s move to invalidate the group via the courts. — Reuters pic
In a statement, the coalition said the airline is violating worker and trade union rights by taking disciplinary action against members of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) for holding a protest against MAS’s move to invalidate the group via the courts. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — Members of an employee union at Malaysia Airlines (MAS) are being singled out unfairly ahead of a key court hearing on the loss-making national carrier’s attempt to dissolve the group, a coalition of rights and workers groups claimed today.

In a statement, the coalition said the airline is violating worker and trade union rights by taking disciplinary action against members of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) for holding a protest against MAS’s move to invalidate the group via the courts.

“It is suspected that the timing of these recent actions by MAS may have been because the MAS’s judicial review at the High Court challenging the recognition accorded by the Minister to NUFAM was fixed for February 18, 2014, which now has been adjourned to March 27, 2014.

“Taking into consideration all these actions of MAS, it is difficult not to come to the perception that MAS is on a ‘union-busting’ mission, which also includes persecution of Union leadership and those active in NUFAM,” spokespersons for the 52 organisations said in a joint statement.

The airline could not be reached for comment.

In August last year, the director-general of Industrial Relations (DGIR) conducted a secret ballot which involved all qualified employees, and NUFAM succeeded in getting 62.73 per cent of the votes, making the group a recognised union.

But MAS later challenged the decision and filed for a judicial review in the High Court.

“MAS also allegedly applied for an interim stay order thus depriving NUFAM the ability to move forward towards a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA),” the statement said.

A crackdown on NUFAM members followed, including the unfair sacking of the union’s president because he made a statement urging the prime minister to review the position of the current MAS chief executive, the statement claimed.

“No worker, group of workers or unions should be barred from making public statements to the media or otherwise in the struggle for worker rights and human rights.

“This right is clearly acknowledged in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, commonly known today as the UN Human Rights Defender Declaration,” it added.

MAS suspended 10 NUFAM members in December last year but later reversed the decision. However, one Farahtina Kassim, probably the strongest critic of the company, remained suspended and was later sacked.

The national carrier issued show cause letters to 30 NUFAM members last month. It eventually sacked three along with Farahtina on February 14.

MAS claimed the action was taken due to staff involvement in an “illegal gathering”, a reference to the November picket, but the coalition backing NUFAM members have challenged the accusation.

It pointed out that the punitive actions were taken without providing recourse for justice.

“Being convicted of serious crimes may be a basis for commencement of misconduct, but here there seem to have been no arrest, investigation or even prosecution at all,” said the group.

It added that MAS had failed to observe international labour and human rights standards.

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