PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court here on Thursday (Jan 20) upheld a High Court’s decision which ruled that the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) president Ismail Nasaruddin Abdul Wahab was dismissed unlawfully by Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS) in 2013 over comments he made about the airline.
The court’s three-member bench led by Justice Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan also affirmed the compensation of RM211,444 awarded by the Industrial Court to Ismail Nasaruddin.
In allowing Ismail Nasaruddin's appeal to set aside the decision of a Court of Appeal that ruled in favour of MAS on Oct 7, 2020, Justice Nallini said the statements made by Ismail Nasaruddin were not malicious, nor recklessly false or extraneous.
She said the court accepted that the contents of the press statement by Ismail Nasaruddin were related to problems faced by employees at the workplace and criticism of the management's failure to address the problems.
"We do not think the appellant (Ismail Nasaruddin) abused the platform for his personal interest but that it was all done in the name of Nufam," she said adding that it was made with the view to improve the workplace conditions.
Justice Nallini, who sat with Justices Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, said the Court of Appeal had erred in solely focusing on Ismail Nasaruddin's obligation under his contract of employment or collective agreement without giving any sufficient consideration to his duties as President of Nufam.
In 2013, Ismail gave an interview with a local daily to highlight the concerns of workers in relation to claims of overwork, underpayment of salaries, health and safety issues due to MAS' fleet realignment exercise and weight loss exercise.
He also called for the resignation of the then chief executive officer (CEO) Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, claiming that the CEO had failed to make changes in resolving the cabin crew's problems, which had demoralised the employees, since the latter took over the helm in September 2011.
Ismail Nasaruddin subsequently brought his matter to the Industrial Court after he was dismissed from employment in Jan 2013, but the court did not rule in favour of him which prompted him to file a judicial review in the High Court.
On Sept 4, 2019, the High Court held that Ismail Nasaruddin was unfairly dismissed from employment for participating in union activities.
The then High Court judge Datuk Nordin Hassan (now Court of Appeal judge) quashed the decision of the Industrial Court and remitted the case to the court to assess the compensation to be awarded to Ismail Nasaruddin.
Following that, the Industrial Court awarded RM211,444 in compensation to Ismail Nasaruddin.
In October 2020, the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court decision after allowing MAS's appeal.
Lawyers Datuk S.Ambiga and Lim Wei Jiet represented Ismail Nasaruddin while lawyer N.Sivabalah acted for MAS. - Bernama