MAS should cease anti-union activities
Recently, MAS commenced disciplinary action against Mohd Akram Osman, the secretary-general of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam), and 30 other Nufam members. The show-cause letter dated on or about Feb 14, 2014 asked why disciplinary action should not be taken against them by reason of their participation in an ‘illegal’ gathering on Nov 27, 2013 at the Human Resources Ministry in Putrajaya.
On Feb 17, 2014, Mohd Akram received yet another show-cause letter with new allegations, and he has been suspended with half-pay.
Nufam is a registered trade union, and it had sought recognition from Malaysian Airlines, the employer of some of its members. Recognition is a legal requirement in Malaysia before an employer can be compelled to sit down, negotiate and agree to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
When MAS rejected the application, the director-general of Industrial Relations (DGIR) conducted a secret ballot which involved all qualified employees, and Nufam succeeded in getting 62.73 percent of the votes, and thereafter in August 2013, the DGIR issued a formal letter acknowledging Nufam as a recognised union.
It must be noted that in Malaysian law, MAS, as employer, would have had to agree on the list of qualified employees entitled to vote before the secret ballot, and as such challenging the result and the subsequent recognition of the union is bad.
Sadly, on Oct 4, 2013, MAS challenged the decision of the minister to accord recognition to Nufam, and filed a judicial review application in the High Court. MAS also allegedly applied for an interim stay order thus depriving Nufam the ability to move forward towards a CBA.
On Nov 29, 2013 MAS wrongly terminated Ismail Nasaruddin, the president of Nufam, without even having a domestic inquiry, hence denying him the right to be heard and a fair hearing.
Ismail was first suspended and then terminated allegedly by reason of a statement he issued in his capacity as president of Nufam, which appeared in the media, which amongst others stated: ‘... Nufam secretariat said it is urging the prime minister to review Jauhari’s (Ahmad Jauhari Yahya) contract and remove him as the CEO of MAS, which is a government appointed position, unhappy that there has been no changes in resolving the cabin crew’s problems... ’
It also raised other worker issues (The Sun Daily, Nov 8, 2013, Nufam calls for resignation of MAS’ CEO).
MAS sent him a show cause letter on Nov 8, 2013, which also immediately suspended him. Thereafter, Ismail received another letter terminating him on Nov 29, 2013. According to a Malaysiakini report, it is alleged that MAS said Ismail had acted in contradiction with his duties as a chief steward of the airline by issuing the statement. (Malaysiakini, Nov 14, 2013, MAS suspends chief steward for criticising CEO).
This is absurd as the statement was issued in the capacity of a union president, not a mere employee whereby even an ordinary employee should never be denied his freedom of opinion or expression.
Joint statement by 43 groups and trade unions
In response, 43 civil society groups and trade unions, including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), issued a joint statement on Dec 3, 2013, entitled, “MAS Must Immediately Revoke Suspension of Union President Ismail Nasaruddin Worker Right Issue Should Be Resolved By Negotiations Not ‘Union Busting’.
Then, in December 2013, disciplinary action was taken by MAS against about 10 Nufam members allegedly based on comments made by them in their Nufam Facebook Group. They were all suspended, but thankfully the disciplinary action seem to have been discontinued against nine.
However, one flight attendant, Farahtina Kassim, is still suspended from her flying duties since Dec 8, 2013 and even though she is now receiving full wages, she is being deprived of her flying allowance which constitutes a substantial sum of her ordinary take-home income.
Now in February 2014, the show-cause letter is against some 30 employees. The most recent allegation of participation in an ‘illegal gathering’ at the Human Resources Ministry is absurd given the reason that it a fundamental right for workers and/or their unions to file complaints and make representation to the government, including the human resources minister.
There has also been no known report or actions taken by the police or relevant authorities that indicated that any ‘illegal gathering’ even took place on Nov 27, 2013 at the ministry. In any event, even if workers went to the ministry not during their working hours, MAS certainly cannot make this a worker misconduct.
Being convicted of serious crimes may be a basis for commencement of misconduct, but here there seem to have been no arrest, investigation or even prosecution at all. One also wonders whether there is ‘mala fide’ on the part of MAS to suddenly in February 2014 to issue show-cause letter with regard to things that happened in November last year.
On or about Feb 14, 2014, Farahtina Kassim and three others were terminated.
It is suspected that the timing of these recent actions by MAS may have been because the MAS’s judicial review application at the High Court challenging of the recognition accorded by the minister to Nufam was fixed for Feb 18, 2014, which now has been adjourned to March 27, 2014.
Taking into consideration all these actions of MAS, it is difficult not to come to the perception that MAS is on a ‘union-busting’ mission, which also includes persecution of union leadership and those active in Nufam.
Malaysia, being a member of the international community, must also act in accordance with international standards including Ruggie’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, whereby in cases of government-linked companies like MAS, the obligation is even greater.
The Guiding Principles do state that “states should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the state, or that receive substantial support and services from state...”.
No worker, group of workers or unions should be barred from making public statements to the media or otherwise in the struggle for worker rights and human rights. This right is clearly acknowledged in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, commonly known today as the UN Human Rights Defender Declaration.
We urge Malaysian Airlines to immediately cease all ‘union-busting’ activities including the commencement and continuation of disciplinary actions against members and potential members of Nufam.
We urge MAS to immediately discontinue the High Court action challenging the recognition of Nufam, and to immediately sit down and work towards a collective bargaining agreement with Nufam.
We again urge MAS to immediately and unconditionally reinstate Ismail Nasaruddin, the president of the union, Farahtina Kassim and the three other flight attendants who have been terminated.
We urge MAS to recognise and respect worker rights including the freedom of association and the right of qualified employees to join the union.
We urge the Malaysian government, being also a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and also having substantial influence in MAS, a government-linked company, to ensure that worker rights and union rights are respected by MAS.
We urge Malaysia to immediately amend or repeal all laws that hinder or delay the speedy formation of trade unions and entry into collective bargaining agreement with employers.
Senator Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud
Mohd Roszeli bin Majid
For and on behalf the 52 organisations listed below
All Nepal Federation of Trade Unions
AMRC, Hong Kong.
Cambodian Human Rights and Development Organization- ADHOC
Centro De Reflexión Y Acción Laboral (CEREAL)
COAC (Centre for Orang Asli Concerns), Malaysia
Committee for Asian Women, Bangkok
Community Action Network (CAN), Malaysia
Committe For Workers International (CWI) Malaysia
Damn the Dams
Friends’ Association for Rural Reconstruction (FARR) Orissa, India
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com , UK
Kesatuan Eksekutif Airod
Kesatuan Eksekutif Canon Opto (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd
Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Perodua
Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Dalam Perkhidmatan Perubatan Dan Kesihatan Swasta
Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Polyplastics Asia Pacific (KPPAP), Malaysia
Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan, Semenanjung Malaysia
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
Malaysians for Beng Hock
Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility (MPSR)
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Pahang
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan
MHS Employees Union, Malaysia
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
National Union Employees in Companies Manufacturing Rubber Products (NUECMRP)
National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers (NUHBRW), Malaysia
National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW)
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Paper Products Manufacturing Employees’ Union of Malaysia (PPMEU)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
Pax Romana ICMICA
Peoples Green Coalition
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee, Malaysia
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM )
Selangor & Federal Territory Textile Workers Union
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suraram)
Tenaga Nasional Junior Officers Union (TNBJOU)
Thai Labour Campaign, Thailand
THINK Centre, Singapore
WAC, Cavite, Philippines
Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
Women Workers Lead, Malaysia
Yayasan LINTAS NUSA - Batam
SYED SHAHIR SYED MOHAMUD is a senator in the Malaysian Parliament; CHARLES HECTOR is a human rights defender and lawyer; MOHD ROSZELI MAJID is vice-president (private sector), Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), and also the president of the TNB Junior Officers Union; and PRANOM SOMWONG is a representative of the Workers Hub For Change (WH4C), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).