Ultimatum for Malaysia Airlines unions

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The proposed law governing Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), the new company that will take over Malaysian Airlines System Bhd (MAS), spells out clearly the terms that ensure unions and associations come to the negotiating table within a stipulated timeframe or risk losing out in any decision-making.

According to the bill tabled in Parliament yesterday, any decision made during a meeting between MAB, the trade unions and associations present at the meeting shall be valid and binding.

MAB is "not a successor employer'', the bill stated.

According to the bill, trade unions and associations are to be duly represented in a meeting, which is the way all matters are to be discussed or negotiated.

"If after half-an-hour from the time appointed for a meeting, not all of the trade unions and association are duly represented, the meeting shall be adjourned to the subsequent week on the same day and time and at the same venue without any further notice," it said. If the day is a public holiday, the adjourned meeting shall be reconvened on the next working day, according to the bill.

"When the adjourned meeting is reconvened on the new day, the non-attendance by any trade union or association shall not prevent the meeting from proceeding and any decisions made here will be valid and binding," it said.

Dealing with the unions had been one of the key challenges that Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the controlling shareholder of MAS, faced.

"It is estimated that the new company will require a workforce of about 14,000," Khazanah said in its recovery plan for the airline on Aug 29.

The national carrier currently employs about 20,000 people.

The national carrier's biggest in-house union, the Malaysia Airlines System Employees Union, was reported to be in favour of an alternative restructuring plan that it claimed would help save jobs.

Other unions claiming to represent MAS workers include the Malaysia Airlines Employees Union Peninsular Malaysia, National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia and the Malaysia Airlines Pilot Association.

MAB is the new company established under the Malaysian Airline System Bhd (Administration) Act 2014 to take over the role of the national airline and to operate it as a commercial enterprise.

The bill gives the new company the powers and immunity to renegotiate terms and contracts with its unions, suppliers, partners and contractors.

This is "critical to ensure the continuity, profitability and sustainability" of the national carrier, the Bill said.

The legislation will provide an "effective, efficient and seamless means" to transfer "the business, property, rights, liabilities and affairs" of MAS to the new company.

The bill, once passed, will apply for a period of five years, or until the listing of MAS on Bursa Malaysia.