PETALING JAYA: In a last minute change of heart, more than a third of the 20,000 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) staff will be getting termination payments according to their collective agreements (CA).
The move reverses earlier reports that the payments would be about half of what is spelt out under the CA, something which left the staff very unhappy.
Some say MAS had bowed to pressure from unions to finally give such terms, but a source close to the matter claims “they had always been working on this suggestion but the unions did not know about it”.
Whoever’s idea it may be, the unions appear to have managed to reach the corridors of power to intervene on the severance package.
Yesterday, the airline’s nine union leaders were told that the staff payout would be according to the CA and this was received with much cheer at a meeting held at MAS with the airline’s parent body Khazanah Nasional Bhd and MAS officials.
A large chunk of MAS employees are unionised.
“It is a welcome move. It is politically and morally the right thing to do, to pay according to the CA. That is what we should get and what we deserve.
“Fortunately, they did not use the MAS Act 2015 to circumvent. Unfortunately, not all of us will be re-hired by MAS Bhd,” said an employee.
Christoph Mueller, the CEO of MAS, was not present at the meeting, but he sent a memo to his staff late yesterday evening disclosing the latest details which were “in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment that MAS restructuring reflect fairness, compassion and transparency”.
MAS is scheduled to axe between 6,000 and 8,000 staff over the next one year as part of its plan to shrink into a smaller airline with regional focus. The remake of the airline involves the migration of assets and liabilities of the existing MAS to a new company known as MAS Bhd, which will rehire two-thirds of the workforce.
Those not offered jobs with MAS Bhd will be given one month basic salary for every year of service for those up to 10 years of service. Those who have served MAS for more than 10 years will get 1.5 months of salary for every year of service.
The memo said senior management employees (vice-president and above) and those on contract were not subject to such terms.
Those accepting the offer to join the new MAS Bhd, will be offered a sign-on payment and if they are still with MAS Bhd after 18 months, will get a retention payment.
Khazanah had initially set aside RM1.66bil for staff payouts but since they are now paying according to the CA, the total payout will be higher with some suggesting it may be as high as RM2.4bil.
Due to the change in heart, the 20,000 termination letters that were supposed to be distributed today by the airline will not go out as planned. But MAS is working furiously to have the letters sent out over the next few days so the staff will still get them around June 1. Those rehired will have until June 12 to accept the offer.
“The unions have also asked that the retiree benefits of four tickets per year at discounted prices remain but MAS officials said they needed more time to deliberate on it,” said a source.