Don't call it a bailout if it will save jobs, says flight attendants' union

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 07 Jun 2020

PETALING JAYA: Using public funds to save airlines should not be seen as a bailout but as a way to aid workers in the industry who are now facing job losses and salary cuts, says the National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam).

Its president Ismail Nasaruddin said that the term "bailout" should not be used in this case as airlines are not struggling because of mismanagement but due to the sudden halt in world travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The term 'bailout' should only apply in cases when public funds are used to save companies from going under as a result of their own mismanagement and financial misconduct.

“As such, any injection of funds by the government to reboot the aviation industry must be considered a stimulus package because the aviation industry is a vital cog in the national economy and is one that provides the boost to many associated sectors,” said Ismail during a Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) webinar on Saturday (June 6).

He said that more than 100,000 employees in the aviation industry, including pilots, flight attendants and ground staff have been asked to either freeze their salaries or take huge salary cuts.

He added that the industry needed the government's help urgently.

Ismail said there were crew members earning as little as RM1,200 per month – and in some cases, this was halved further when the pandemic struck and air travel was halted.

“You can imagine the kind of hardship my colleagues and their dependants went through in the last three months.

"They have all appealed (for Bantuan Prihatin Nasional aid) and I hope the government will understand what the actual problem here is,” he said, adding that many had their applications rejected based on their income in 2019 when the tourism industry was booming.

He said the government must take into consideration the contributions of the airlines, tourism and related economic sectors, which he said was the third-highest contributor towards the national gross domestic product (GDP).

“We are key players and a financial injection is sorely needed.

"There must also be a special focus on these industries as we want to be prepared if a second wave of Covid-19 hits.

"The buffer is also needed to cushion the next 12 months or so while the economy slowly picks up,” he added.

Apart from government help, he added that the top management of all the airlines should take pay cuts and reduce their perks voluntarily.

“These must include forgoing huge bonuses, travel and financial perks for the board of directors. We have written to the government with this suggestion.

“The savings from this will not affect the comfortable and luxurious lifestyles of these top officials as they already earn very high salaries but it will save thousands of jobs of the low-income category,” he said.
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