Minister says hands tied over fate of 3,600 laid-off MAS workers

richard-riot-MASKUALA LUMPUR: Human Resources Minister Richard Riot finally broke his silence on the delay in referring the cases of 3,600 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) workers who were laid-off, saying the ministry is legally not required to provide an explanation.

Riot said as MAS had declared bankruptcy, the ministry could not legally go after the company.

“According to the law, as the company had declared bankrupt, we can’t go after it because it is no longer in existence,” he told reporters at a press conference here after the closing ceremony of the Asean Productivity Linked Wage conference today.

Riot said that legally the ministry would not be able to go after the individuals involved as MAS had been replaced by Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).

He did not say exactly what will happen now and what the workers can expect.

However, he said, letters had been sent to the workers who had been laid off with a full explanation of the situation.

“Our ministry, through the Industrial Relations Department, has written 1,500 letters so far, out of the 3,600 individuals, with full explanations.

“Actually we are not required by law to give an explanation,” he said.

When questioned why it had taken two years for the case to be referred, Department of Industrial Relations director deneral Khalid Jalil said they had waited for the moratorium to be over.

“The last day of the moratorium (which details the transition of the business, property, rights, liabilities and affairs of MAS to MAB ) was May 24, so we could only act after that,” he said.

On Sept 21, the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) had questioned the delay by the human resources ministry in referring the case of the 3,600 MAS workers who were laid-off to the Industrial Court.

Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin said the former MAS workers had filed their cases with the ministry more than two years ago but there had been no progress.

“Some might think the matter has already been resolved with the airline. The minister has not even referred the case.

“We demand that the ministry speed up the referral process of these 3,600 cases as they have been waiting for far too long,” he had said.

In June 2015, MAS announced it was laying off 6,000 of its workers as part of a restructuring programme. Out of that number, 3,600 came under the union.

Ismail had said Nufam had approached the ministry but there had been no response. The most recent correspondence was on Sept 6, when Nufam sent a letter to the deputy minister and secretary-general of the ministry.

He was worried that the complete takeover process of MAS by Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), expected next year, would result in those who were laid-off not receiving any compensation.

Meanwhile, Riot announced that the National Wages Index would only be published in December as there were “some elements” that needed to be refined.