KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — A union representing the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) cabin crew threatened legal action today against the national flag carrier for allegedly suspending seven members for criticising their work conditions on Facebook.
In a statement here, the newly-formed National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) called the suspension “unlawful”, pointing out that the comments were made on its private Facebook forum and did not warrant such drastic punishment against the seven.
The union also claimed that this was part of MAS’s continued “war” against it, and urged the Human Resources Ministry to investigate the carrier, accusing it of deliberately snubbing its activities.
“MAS have become to bold and acted arrogantly using high handed tactics to suspend and threatened the National Union members.
“The members were accused for posting comments in a close Facebook forum belonging to the Union which MAS is no party or member to this close group forum,” Nufam said in a press statement today.
“MAS does not have any liberty to control the members who have expressed dissatisfaction over the working conditions in the airline,” the union continued.
In a letter demanding the release of the seven yesterday, Nufam secretariat member Wan Adli accused MAS of acting beyond its powers by ordering the suspension.
“MAS appears to wage war against our trade union members and we will not hesitate to call for industrial action if MAS prevails this form of threats and tactics against our members.
“MAS have again acted beyond their provisions as a GLC company against the National Union members suspending seven of its crew members for the last several weeks,” he wrote.
The union, which was recognised by the Director-General of Trade Unions on August 2, has also urged the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to investigate discrimination issues and violation of human rights and trade union laws in MAS.
MAS should adhere to the industrial laws and settle issues with Nufam quickly and not “become greater bullies” against its members as well as the carrier’s frontliners, Wan Adli said.
A MAS media relations spokesman declined comment when queried by The Malay Mail Online, saying in an email this afternoon that the matter is an internal one and would not be discussed in public.
Earlier this month, Nufam threatened to picket over the national carrier’s refusal to the acknowledge the union and the firing of its president.
Chief steward and Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin was sacked on November 29, after previously being suspended over his call for MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya to resign, triggering allegations of union busting.
He had also accused MAS Employees Union (Maseu) of being ineffective in voicing out concerns and fighting for the rights of its cabin crew members, who claim to have been sidelined for years, compared to their colleagues.
“We may take an industrial action against MAS by calling for a picket, on the 27 and 28 of this month, tentatively.
“It all depends if MAS is still arrogant enough to not call this meeting, then it leaves no choice to the national union to do what it needs to do, to call for a picket, which is accordance to our industrial law,” Ismail told reporters on December 5, after a meeting between Nufam, MAS and the ministry was postponed indefinitely.
He also said the union’s lawyers had suggested that it take the right steps to resolve its many complaints against the airline.
“Which is to file a violation of industrial relations act, that would be the first.
“The second would be submission of my registering of complaint to the industrial relations, which is under section 20 as an employee.
“Thirdly, of course there is going to be legal recourse which I would not express right now, but on a later date,” he said.
Ismail, who had been with the airline for the last 25 years, said a directive from the Human Resource Ministry on September 23 had stated that Maseu can no longer represent cabin crews as it has recognised Nufam as the only union to represent the airline’s cabin crew.
Despite the order, Maseu and Nufam remain locked in a tussle over which of the two represented the cabin crew members from the airlines. There are about 3,500 cabin crew members in MAS and Nufam represents about 1,500.
MAS reported a net loss of RM176 million for the second quarter of 2013 financial year, against RM349.2 million in the same period last year, despite an increase in revenue from RM3.3 billion to RM3.8 billion.