Home Civil Society Voices 2013 Civil Society Voices Mas must immediately revoke suspension of union president

Mas must immediately revoke suspension of union president

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Workers’ rights issues should be resolved through negotiations, not by union busting, say 43 civil society and trade union groups.

Photograph: theSun
Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin – Photograph: theSun

We, the 43 undersigned civil society groups, trade unions and organisations, are disturbed by the news that Malaysia Airlines, a government-linked company, has suspended the president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam), Ismail Nasaruddin, in connection with a statement made to the media by the union, which amongst other things suggested that Mas CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, who was appointed in 2011, should resign.

Ismail was allegedly suspended without allowances with effect from 8 November 2013 following a news report quoting him that was published on the same day.

According to a news report:

…Nufam Secretariat said it is calling on the prime minister to review Jauhari’s contract and remove him as the CEO of Mas, which is a government-appointed position, unhappy that there has been no changes in resolving the cabin crew’s problems…’ (theSun, 8 November 2013, Nufam calls for resignation of Mas’ CEO)

Amongst the alleged grievances being raised by Nufam, which represents 3,500 cabin crew at Mas, as was contained in theSun report are:

  • A new policy imposed by Mas – a weight control ruling under which cabin crew are told to reduce their weight to achieve a certain body mass index within three to six months. Failure to do so would result in an automatic transfer to ground work. The new rule is a blanket policy and affects all cabin crew members including those who have just returned from maternity leave and may find it difficult to drastically lose weight within a short time frame;
  • Cabin crew who joined in 2004 or later are no longer able to enjoy the transport services provided by the airline for pick-up from home, and Ismail said this is unfair to those who joined in 2004 or later, as they had signed contracts that included transportation as part of the benefits; and
  • That the Mas management have allegedly cut costs drastically which affected the cabin crew resulting also in a failure to review allowances and salaries.
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We are especially concerned with this ‘weight control ruling’ which certainly is discriminatory against women, especially those returning from pregnancy. An increase in body mass index sometimes may be beyond the control of a human being, and this really should not be used to affect their employment.

Nufam alleges that it wants Mas to sit down with the Union to discuss and negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA/CA) but apparently Mas is not interested to do so at this moment, citing as reason some judicial review.

Now, Mas has commenced disciplinary actions against Ismail Nasaruddin, and according to a Malaysiakini report, it is allegedly because Mas said Ismail had acted in contradiction with his duties as a chief steward of the airline by issuing the statement (Malaysiakini, 14 November 2011, ‘Mas suspends chief steward for criticising CEO’).

Now, clearly the statements were made by Ismail in his capacity as President of the Union, representing some 3,500 workers, and as such he has the duty and obligation to fight for the rights of workers and that includes applying pressure on the employer and even calling for the removal of any of the employer’s officers or even directors who are standing in the way of a prompt resolution of the dispute. Unlike for employers, every day that workers’ issues are not resolved, it is the workers that will continue to suffer. A prompt resolution is best and just.

No worker, group of workers or unions should be barred from making public statements to the media or otherwise in the struggle for workers’ rights and human rights. This right is clearly acknowledged in the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, commonly known today as the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration.

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We condemn the action of Mas in commencing disciplinary actions against a union leader, and urge Mas to immediately stop this and revoke the suspension of Ismail Nasaruddin.

We call on Mas to immediately sit down, negotiate and resolve these outstanding workers’ issues with the trade union rather than resorting to ‘union busting’ strategies, which include disciplinary actions against workers’ and union leaders who dare to fight for workers’ rights.

We call on the Malaysian government to immediately act, (as it has) much influence … in a government-linked company like Mas to ensure that justice is done for Ismail Nasaruddin, the union and its members.

Senator Syed Shahir bin Syed Mohamud, senator
Charles Hector, human rights defender and lawyer
Mohd Roszeli bin Majid, vice-president (Private Sector) Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and president of the TNB Junior Officers Union;
Pranom Somwong – Workers Hub For Change (WH4C), Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

For and on behalf of the following 43 civil society groups, trade unions and organisations

  • Aliran
  • Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  • Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
  • Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
  • CWI Malaysia (Committee For A Workers International Malaysia)
  • Damn the Dams
  • Dignity International-Asia
  • Friends of Burma
  • Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, United Kingdom
  • Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas(Jerit)
  • Kesatuan Eksekutif AIROD (KEA)
  • Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Polyplastics Asia Pacific
  • Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan Semenanjung Malaysia (KSIEWSSM)
  • Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)
  • Malaysians for Beng Hock
  • Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (Dema)
  • MTUC, Pahang
  • National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers (NUHBRW)
  • Network of Action For Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
  • Paper and Paper Products Manufacturing Employees Union (PPPMEU)
  • Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (Pahra)
  • Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
  • Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  • Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party – Philippines)
  • Pax Romana-ICMICA Asia
  • Peoples’ Green Coalition
  • Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  • Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor
  • Pusat Komas
  • Sahabat Rakyat Working Committee
  • Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia)
  • Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  • Suaram
  • Tenaga Nasional Junior Officers Union (TNBJOU)
  • Tenaganita
  • The Filipino Women’s Organisation in Quebec
  • Women’s Institute Research Development and Advancement (Wirda), Malaysia
  • Women’s Centre for Change Penang
  • Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
  • Yayasan Lintas Nusa – Batam, Indonesia
  • Law and Society Trust, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The ITUC represents 176m workers in 161 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates.
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