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KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Injecting public funds to save airline companies that have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic should not be seen as a bailout, said the National Union of the Flying Attendants of Malaysia (Nufam).
Its president Ismail Nasaruddin said the massive ‘overnight’ losses incurred by the airlines were not due to mismanagement but it was an abrupt halt in world travel.
“The term bailout should only apply in cases when public funds are used to save companies from going under as a result of their own mismanagement and financial misconduct.
“As such, any injection of funds by the government to reboot the aviation industry must be considered as a stimulus package because the airline industry is a vital cog in the national economy. It is one that provides the boost to many associated sectors,” Ismail said this at the 2nd Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) webinar on Covid-19 and Protection of Workers – What is wrong?
Ismail said the ailing airline industry in Malaysia is in need of urgent help from the government as more than 100,000 employees, including pilots, flight attendants and ground staff have been hit with either a salary freeze or forced to take massive salary cuts.
He said the government has somehow failed to understand that most of the airline workers in the country earn a low basic salary and depend on various allowances to sustain themselves and their dependents.
“Local airline employees then suffered another setback, their Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash aid applications were rejected as the Inland Revenue Department deemed them as ‘overqualified’ for the aid, based on their 2019 income when the industry was ‘normal’.
“Many of these workers had their allowances frozen or reduced fand were forced take pay cuts when Malaysia and most other countries grounded flights to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
As the key player in the country, Ismail said special focus should be given to the aviation industry to help it prepare for the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 as well as to cushion the next 12 months or so while the economy slowly picks up.
He also called on top airline management to take pay cuts and reduce their perks which include forgoing huge bonuses, travel and financial perks for the board of directors voluntarily.
“The savings from this will not affect the comfort and luxuries lifestyles of these top officials as they already earn very high salaries but it will save thousands of jobs of the low-income category,” he said. — Bernama