MAS in another trouble thanks to its outdated policy on workers' rights

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): MAS have been struggling very hard to retain their pilots as many of them were very upset with the management for a number of reasons. They were upset with the management when all the seven Board members were each rewarded with a brand new BMW 7-Series, while the pilots and other employees were not given any bonus for the year 2004.

Many pilots have recently resigned from MAS out of frustration. More will be following their footsteps if the MAS management continues to care only for their own interest. Coupled with the fact that other airliners in the Middle East are now making much better offers than MAS, our national carrier may soon face an acute shortage of pilots.

The airline was troubled by several sabotaged incidents over the past few months. For instance, an Osaka-bound MAS Airbus A330, which arrived at KLIA from Bangkok on Jan 5, was grounded after engineers found hydraulic oil had been spilled on the cockpit instrument panel. This was the fourth aircraft to be grounded for possible tampering in the past two years.

MAS managing director Ahmad Fuaad Dahlan has subsequently issued a circular on the incident and offered a RM100, 000 rewards to its employees for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a string of mishaps.

MAS is now facing another big problem thanks to its outdated policy on workers' rights. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has threatened to make MAS a target for international campaign. The body has written several letters of complaints to various Malaysian government leaders.

In a letter dated 23rd February 2005 entitled Discriminatory practices at Malaysian Airlines, MAS, ITF claims that the situation regarding discriminatory retirement ages in MAS is still ongoing, namely that cabin crew employees, sixty per cent of whom are female, are subject to discriminatory retirement ages.

The body was also unhappy over the fact that MAS cabin crew employees are limited to when and how many children they can have, and that pregnant women are not redeployed to other duties, but instead are forced to take seven months unpaid leave.  

In the same letter, ITF claims that in addition to violating the fundamental rights of these employees, Malaysian Airlines'  international reputation as a safe and responsible carrier is put in jeopardy by these practices. The body argues that cabin crew is trained safety professionals; their experience and judgment, and a proper mix of age and experience, are essential to flight safety and security.  

In the past, the ITF has launched initiatives aimed to combat sexism in aviation. At its last meeting, civil aviation unions from all over the world representing over 600,000 aviation workers from every major airline and airport in the world, mandated the ITF to heighten campaigning and focus on strategic targets by address issues of sexism in aviation by raising them directly with employers, and by publicizing them.  

ITF claims that despite approaches made to former MAS managing director Dato' Md. Nor Bin Md. Yusof and Dato' Chan Kong Choy (Transport Minister) and the ITF's repeated requests to stop these discriminatory practices, they have not ceased.

As a result, the ITF's member civil aviation unions have now resolved that, should immediate action not be forthcoming to resolve the situation, Malaysian Airlines will be designated as a campaign target.

As a first step, the ITF will be asking aviation unions worldwide to demonstrate their solidarity with MAS cabin crew employees.

The letter was signed by Ingo Marowsky, Secretary of ITF Civil Aviation Section, and Sarah Finke, ITF Women's Officer. The letter was addressed to MAS's Managing Director, and copies were faxed to The Prime Minister and Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu.

Something has gone very wrong with the MAS's management. The government should view the troubles confronting MAS seriously and take immediate actions to save the GLC to safeguard the interest of Malaysians.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief