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KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Six worker unions demanded that top officials of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and owner Khazanah Nasional be removed in place of the 6,000 workers that will be made redundant in the flag carrier’s restructuring.
According to local business paper The Edge Financial Daily, the unions led by Tan Sri Zainal Rampak and representing up to 13,000 MAS employees said “mismanagement” on the part of MAS and Khazanah as well as their “failure to turn around the airline on numerous occasions” were reason enough for the officials to go rather than workers.
“We are not keeping quiet. Maseu has taken the issues affecting MAS employees to the international bodies like ITF and ILO,” MAS Employees’ Union Peninsular Malaysia (Maseu) secretary-general Ab Malek Arif was quoted saying yesterday.
“We have also written to Najib three weeks ago seeking an intervention,” he said, referring to International Transport Workers Federation in London and the International Labour Organisation in Geneva by their acronyms ITF and ILO respectively.
“We want Khazanah to come back to us and resolve the issues in an amicable manner, failing which we will have to resort to other actions,” he added.
Ab Malek stopped short of saying, however, whether Maseu will stage a nationwide protest much like the one carried out by Airline Employees’ Union Peninsular Malaysia back in 1978 which resulted in planes being stranded in foreign countries when the protest went international.
The five other unions are the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, UNI-Malaysia Labour Centre, Asean Services Employees Trade Union Council Malaysia, Gabungan Kesatuan Sekerja Dalam Syarikat GLC & Penswastaan and the Public Services International Malaysia.
This comes after the ITF wrote to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last month urging him to intervene in the creating of a new MAS with fewer employees and no unions.
“Maseu told the ITF that the non-transparent process envisaged in the new Malaysian Airline System Bhd (Administration) Act 2014 regarding the transfer of employees to the new airline would result in dramatic job losses, discrimination, loss of income and conditions, and de-unionisation,” ITF said on in a letter to Najib on February 18.
“It is crucial that governments and investors recognise that the core asset of an airline is the skill, expertise and goodwill of employees. These are not an asset to be traded like a commodity, and nor should their security and working conditions be undermined. Any change in the status of MAS should be negotiated with its workers and their unions,” it added.
The MAS Act, which was tabled in Parliament last November, proposes that a new entity called Malaysia Airlines Berhad be set up to replace Malaysian Airline System Berhad.
Its draft also suggests special laws for the administration of the airlines and all subsidiaries in addition to stricter rules regulating airline unions.
This came after a plan announced on August 29, 2014 by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, which has nearly 70 per cent stake in MAS, which aims to turn around the ailing flag carrier by trimming the labour force of some 20,000 workers to just 14,000.
The national carrier was delisted last August after the fund offered to buy out its minority share for a total of RM1.38 billion to restructure MAS, which suffered two major aviation disasters this year, MH370 and MH17.
The total takeover is to cost Khazanah Nasional some RM6 billion.
Khazanah Nasional’s 12-point turnaround plan for the national carrier, titled “Rebuilding A National Icon — The MAS Recovery Plan”, also includes transferring all MAS assets to a new entity tentatively known as “MAS Baru” or “new MAS”.