KUCHING: Four worker unions and associations from Sarawak and Sabah have expressed their support for the suggested takeover of MASwings by the east Malaysian state governments.
In a joint statement, the bodies also requested that Sarawak’s Hornbill Skyways and Sabah Air to be incorporated into MASwings, should the takeover go through.
The bodies are Airline Workers Union Sarawak (AWUS), Sarawak Executive Staff Committee of Malaysia Airlines (SESC), Transport Workers Union Sabah (ATWUS) and Sabah Executive Association Malaysia Airlines System (SEAMAS).
“We welcome the proposed takeover of MASwings by Sarawak and Sabah governments,” they said in a joint statement, issued after a hastily-arranged press conference at the Sarawak Bank Employees Union headquarters.
“AWUS and SESC also suggest Hornbill Skyways and Sabah Air be included into MASwings to cater to helicopter and better rural air services in both states,” it added.
The statement came two days after Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg confirmed both state governments were again keen to become MASwings’ majority stakeholders.
On Tuesday, Johari told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly that he and his Sabah counterpart had recently written to Khazanah Nasional Bhd – parent company of Malaysia Airlines – to acquire MASwings, which operates rural air services.
The states aim to turn MASwings into a regional airline, adding more international flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
Johari said having little say in national air connectivity policies and over-reliance on profit-driven commercial entities meant new routes added were often cancelled within months. Having MASwings, he said, would lead to more time to develop routes.
However, this is not the first time Sarawak and Sabah have expressed interests to take over MASwings.
In mid-2012, both governments claimed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had given the green light for a similar proposal. However, in early 2013, plans were called off, a few months after Malindo Air was set up.
Yesterday, the employee associations and unions’ statement noted that part of the reason for their support was to save jobs, in light of MAS’ restructuring after years of poor financial performance.
“Under the ongoing MAS restructuring, MASwings staff will be reduced in tandem with the downsizing of workforce. This is the concern of some 1,500 staff in Sarawak and Sabah.
“Under the MAS recovery plan, Khazanah Nasional has established Corporate Reskilling Centres to cater to redeployment services. Unfortunately, there is no such centre set up in Sarawak and Sabah. The concern is lack of opportunities for re-employment in both states.”
The bodies said members were excited about the prospects of making MASwings a major player in Asean as well as South Korea, Japan and China.
“Under a (possible) new management structure, MASwings can capitalise on support given by AWUS, SESC, ATWUS and SEAMAS. Members have been looking forward to this.”