Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
by Peter Sibon
KUCHING: Staff of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) from Sarawak and Sabah welcome the good news of getting the due benefits which was made public for the first time yesterday.
According to an inside source, the benefits they would be getting, including those who would not be employed by the new company, were what they had been fighting for.
“We welcome the benefits for all MAS staff whether they will be re-employed or otherwise, by the new company, as the benefits would be based on the quantum contained in the employees’ Collective Agreement (CA),” the source said yesterday.
However, a gag order has been issued to all seven unions representing the 20,000 workers across the country not to make any statement(s) otherwise it would affect their benefits, as there was a clause in their agreement which they were told to strictly observe.
But according to a news report, the quantum of payments would be similar to a volunteer separation scheme (VSS) which is standard among companies which have been exercising such moves in the past.
It is understood that MAS staff based in Sarawak and Sabah numbering some 1,600 are working for MAS subsidiary MASwing. They are members of two unions namely Airlines Workers’ Union of Sarawak (AWUS) and Airline Transport Workers’ Union Sabah (ATWUS).
In addition to MASwing, MAS in both states also has staff in four divisions namely call centre, engineering, MAScargo and commercial.
MAS chief executive officer Christoph Muller gave the assurance on Tuesday that MAS staff would be offered a fair deal, including those who would not be absorbed into the new company.
“I can guarantee that it will be fair for everyone. Those not taken in will be given proper (lay-off) benefits. You can take my word for it,” Mueller had told The Borneo Post on Tuesday after paying courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem at his office here.
He added that the airline would be holding a press conference on June 1 in Kuala Lumpur to disclose the entire restructuring plan including the total number of staff who would be retrenched.
The secretary of Malaysia Trade Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak Division, Andrew Lo, also welcomed MAS decision to pay its employees who would be retrenched, at the least, based on the CA.
“This is the very least it can do. The congress urges unions representing employees to ensure that MAS will pay in accordance with CA as it has promised. MAS must also be fair in the selection of employees to be retrenched and that the Code of Conduct For Industrial Harmony is observed.
“Otherwise there is nothing to stop employees from taking their retrenchment to court and apply to join both the new MAS and Khazanah Nasional Berhad to ensure the provisions of the CA is effective and enforceable,” Lo said in a statement received here yesterday.
He added that MTUC had earlier warned that the new Malaysian Airline System Bhd Act (MAS Act) specifically targeted the employees of the national carrier and had not addressed issues of lopsided contracts and mismanagement head on.
“The Act will take away hard earned retirement and termination benefits as well as bring the end of existing trade unions and associations representing MAS employees. It will tear up the existing collective agreement (CA) that was agreed upon between the unions and MAS,” said Lo.
Under the MAS Act, he noted that the new entity, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), will not be responsible for any monies due to employees, including termination benefits of at least 6,000 who will lose their jobs.
“It is expected that the new MAB will employ most of these, (except the 6000) MAS employees. However, the terms and conditions will be entirely at the discretion of MAB,” he said.
Lo said MTUC believed the Act violated Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guaranteed equal protection under the law.
“In this case, it appears that MAS employees are being discriminated if the company chooses to ignore the CA.
“This is where it is most discriminatory and unfair as the Act allows for liabilities due to other creditors including those lopsided contracts be transferred to the new MAB. Creditors and contractors are further protected as the Act requires MAB to appoint an independent advisor to review any re-negotiation of contracts.
“The independent advisor may take into consideration the interests of the (lopsided) creditors,” he said.
“MTUC believes that by targeting specifically the employees and trade unions, the government is barking up the wrong tree. Until the issue of mismanagement is addressed head on, any restructuring is unlikely to succeed,” added Lo.
Source: BORNEO POST online
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