KUALA LUMPUR: Any possible takeover or strategic cooperation to revive national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) will not result in job losses, assures Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The government has yet to make a decision whether to sell, adopt a strategic collaboration with other companies or participate in another recovery plan, said Dr Mahathir who took the first question in Dewan Rakyat on his 94th birthday yesterday.
“We hope that in any action that will be taken, we do not have to lay off any of (the) MAS employees. However, if they voluntarily choose to work for another company, that is their own decision, we will not lay them off.
“Our terms to possible buyers or any new partners (is that) we will not reduce the current size of its staff. This will make it a bit hard for us to act to recover MAS,” he told Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian).
Ahmad Maslan asked the government whether there would be any layoff of employees in any bid to sell or collaborate with other companies.
Dr Mahathir also said MAS was still unable to overcome its problem despite various efforts to turn around the company.
He said many efforts had been undertaken in the past with numerous management changes to help revive the ailing national carrier.
“Each of them promised to revive Malaysia Airlines, but unfortunately they were unable to address the problems faced by it.
“That is why today we are faced with the possibility to shut down all flights completely so we can save money for the turnaround,” he said.
Despite the failure of the MAS recovery plan, Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd is now cooperating with Khazanah Nasional Bhd (Khazanah) to revamp its strategies and weigh all strategic options to recover the performance of this company.
“The government welcomes any proposal from any party to save MAS including takeover from the private sector,” Dr Mahathir said in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (PH-Jeli) during Question Time.
Mustapa asked the government to reveal a sustainable plan for MAS in the face of domestic and international competition.
Dr Mahathir said the government was willing to look at all proposals to turn around MAS.
One such cooperation was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing between MAS and Japan Airlines, as part of efforts to improve passenger services, he said.The MOU was signed in May and the collaboration will start in 2020.
“Japan Airlines had also previously faced similar problems due to competition from low-cost carriers but it had since managed to recover,” he added.
“We are also looking at a wider scope including sharing of best practices, cargo services and cooperation in tourism.”
Dr Mahathir also guaranteed that the government would preserve the national identity of MAS.
“But what we want to retain is the name of the company that is linked to our country,” he said in reply to a supplementary question by Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob (BN-Bera), who asked whether the government has made any decision to sell MAS’ equities or sell it to other companies.Dr Mahathir revealed that on Aug 29, 2014, the Barisan Nasional government through Khazanah, as the main shareholder of MAS, launched the MAS recovery plan which was a comprehensive restructuring for a period of five years to revive the company back to its glory.“The recovery plan targeted that MAS ... to record profit in 2018,” explained Dr Mahathir.
“After five years of the plan, in general, Malaysian Airlines has created several improvements in terms of operations and customer service. ... However, it cannot be said the same in its financial performance which recorded losses due to various external factors including increased competition.”
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir added that the government was reviewing all the proposals.
“Some are concrete proposals, but some are merely verbal proposals. But we do not ignore anyone.
“At the moment, if it involves Singapore Airlines, we will consider it. The main thing is to preserve the identity of the airline as a Malaysian identity and we have to see that any proposal does not result in the sacking of MAS employees,” he said.
He said the government has no intention to bailout MAS if the company still did not recover after any possible selling or cooperation with other companies.
“Well, the government does not want to be bailing out MAS so many times but the government must have a say. We may not have the majority share but we have to preserve some government role as government shareholders,” added Dr Mahathir.Meanwhile, aviation workers welcome the “no layoff” assurance from the Prime Minister.
National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia president Ismail Nasaruddin described the call as “very reassuring” and thanked Dr Mahathir for heeding to the employees’ request for their jobs to be secured if MAS were to embark on new changes in the future.“It’s a very good call by the Prime Minister. He has assured that the employees will not be in a situation where it’s going to be very difficult for them if there is going to be a fresh takeover of some kind later on.“We thank him for honouring what we have requested,” he added.