Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Malaysian Airlines Flight Attendants and NUFAM - No Happy New Year?

No Happy New Year for flight attendants in Malaysian Airlines and their union, NUFAM (National Union of Flight Attendants in Malaysia) because now MAB(Malaysian Airlines Berhad) claims that  NUFAM's application for recognition was defective??? 

In my opinion, MAB should have reasonably replied to NUFAM's application for recognition submitted on 11/9/2015 within 21 days if they believed it was 'defective' or inadequate. There is an obligation to inform NUFAM 'in writing the grounds for not according recognition' - not keep silent until only now.
Section 9(3) Industrial Relations Act 1967 states that, ‘…An employer or a trade union of employers upon whom a claim for recognition has been served shall, within twenty-one days after the service of the claim- (a) accord recognition; or (b) if recognition is not accorded, notify the trade union of workmen concerned in writing the grounds for not according recognition…’
But, MAB kept silent - hencing forcing NUFAM to take the next step in bringing up the matter to the DGIR. The Malaysian government and the DGIR was thus questioned for the delay. See also Joint Statement issued on 19/11/2015:- 67 Groups :- Government-Owned MAB, the new Malaysian Airlines Operator, Must Recognize Unions and Not Deny Freedom of Association.

Finally the Director General of Industrial Relations started doing their work - and sent a letter to NUFAM and MAB(Malaysian Airlines Berhad) setting a meeting to discuss NUFAM's claim for recognition submitted on 11/9/2015. The meeting was fixed on 22/12/2015 (The letter dated 16/12/2015). Reasonably, I believe that the 22nd December meeting would have been for the purpose of arranging the secret ballot - to show the proof that NUFAM does indeed have the support of more than 50% of the flight attendants in MAB.

Now, NUFAM informs us that MAB sent a letter on the date of the meeting(22/12/2015) to the Industrial Relations Department alleging that the Union application for recognition was defective

What MAB did was most embarrassing, and what I would consider very wrong. If they did not want to accord recognition, they should have rightfully informed NUFAM of their reasons 21 days after they received NUFAM's application in September 2015. If they did, whatever inadequacies, if any, could very well been dealt with long ago. But, as we know, MAB did not reply - and the first time, they did respond was just on 22/12/2015. This is unacceptable especially for a company own by Malaysia - the people of Malaysia. 

It all stinks of DELAY - let us not pre-judge the matter, and let us see what Fong Khei Phor (the DGIR) will do? 

Will he now allow MAB to do this, and get away with it? OR will the DGIR proceed towards according recognition of NUFAM? Will he deal with this speedily - or will he procrastinate? 

The government, vis-a-vis the DGIR, have been responsible for delaying before. One case that comes to mind is the case of RENESAS involving the  Electronic Industry Employees Union Western Region, Peninsular Malaysia (EIEUWR)..
The 3rd claim for recognition was submitted to RENESAS on 8/10/2010, and this time using the National Courier Poslaju. After receipt of the UNION’s letter, RENESAS send it back to Poslaju asking that the letter be returned to the UNION. Poslaju provided a letter confirming this. RENESAS could not deny receipt this time, and rightfully the DGIR should have done the needful which was to the conduct of a ‘secret ballot’. But, there was inaction on the part of the DGIR for many months despite repeated demands by the UNION, and finally on 12/8/2011, the UNION had a picket in front of the Ministry of Human Resources. The DGIR then informed the UNION that the said relevant documents had been misplaced, and the blame was put on the Deputy DGIR responsible, who allegedly has since then been removed from that position. The DGIR then asked the Union to submit yet another claim for recognition. - Joint Statement finally supported by 87 groups dated 4/4/2013 'RENESAS MUST IMMEDIATELY ACCORD RECOGNITION TO THE UNION AND REINSTATE WAN NOORULAZHAR' [Now, this statement was sent to the Prime Minister and also the Minister of Human Resources vide letter, and there was no denial or reply]

When it comes to freedom of association of workers, and unionization, sadly Malaysia shamefully has a bad record. As the number of workers increase in the country, Malaysia finds the number of unions and union membership declining in 2015 -  Union busting in Malaysia - Unions reduced, Union membership declining.

In 2014, there were 735 trade unions but in 2015, there are just 723 trade unions ...And, if we just look at the private sector trade unions, there were 485 in 2014, and 475 in 2015 

In 2014, union members was 930,512 but in 2015, that number had declined to 923,938

Now, in the case of the Malaysian Airlines, allegedly not all employees are regular employees until retirement but there are allegedly quite a number on fixed-term contracts.  

Hence, when recognition is delayed - it will definitely prejudice workers and their trade unions. If the secret ballot is delayed, then come they day to vote many of them may no longer even be MAB employees. The Malaysian government, in particular the DGIR must act fast - and not make the freedom of association for workers elusive in Malaysia.

Malaysian government do not even have a policy to insist on permanent regular employment - there is also no legally stipulated limits on the number of fixed-term contract employees, or the scope of work which 'fixed-term contract employees' can be employed in. In India, for example, fixed-term contracts are only allowed in non-core business work. 

In Malaysia, even if the work exists, the employer is free not to extend or renew fixed term contracts - and simply just hire a new worker. How unjust is this? Really, we need a law to ensure that contracts of workers are extended for so long as the work they were employed to do exists. The present practice of not extending contract is also absurd, as it is foolish, to get rid of workers who already have the necessary skill and experience - and hire new workers which have to be trained again.

For workers in modern Malaysia, where most people buy homes, cars and even house-hold appliances on credit(loans), they have monthly financial obligations to repay loans that last for years and years - hence all the more important is financial security for the worker and his/her family/dependents, and for this regular employment, which guarantees employment until retirement unless terminated by reason of misconduct or retrenchment, is a MUST...Without this, it is tough. Such workers may also be easily exploited and oppressed, and will be too afraid to stand up for their rights.

It is not profits and losses of employer companies that determine the wellbeing of Malaysia - it is really the financial security of its people and their families that determine the wellbeing of Malaysia.

MAB is a Malaysian government fully owned company now running the Malaysian Airlines, and so what happens with NUFAM reflects directly on Malaysia. 

We will be watching...

Some earlier news reports:- 

MAB delays recognition for flight attendants union(FMT News)

MAB must recognise union – 62 groups - The Malaysian ...

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