Landmark High Court decision against Malaysia Airlines empowers union leaders

The High Court says it disproportionate for MAS to dismiss the president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia for giving an interview in the course of trade union activities.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has ruled that it is unlawful for Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS) to dismiss a trade union leader for issuing a press statement to highlight the plight of workers and to call for the CEO’s resignation.

Judge Nordin Hassan said it was also disproportionate for MAS to dismiss Ismail Nasaruddin, who was president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM), for giving the interview in the course of trade union activities.

“The real reason for MAS’ dismissal of Ismail was his participation in trade union activities, which is prohibited under the law,” he said in allowing a judicial review application by Ismail.

The judge also quashed the earlier award of the Industrial Court and ordered that compensation be given to Ismail for unlawful dismissal.

The Industrial Court will assess the compensation which is in lieu of reinstatement.

Ismail Nasaruddin.

In 2013, Ismail gave an interview to The Sun 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.

MAS found this to be in breach of Ismail’s duties in the company and dismissed him.

Ismail then went to the Industrial Court to get his job back but early this year , the tribunal upheld MAS’s decision to sack the employee.

Lawyer Lim Wei Jiet  represented Ismail while N Sivabalah and Jamie Goh. appeared for MAS.

Lim said this was a landmark case because it was the first time the High Court had decided that it was unlawful for a company to dismiss a trade union leader for issuing press statements in the course of carrying out his union work.

“Trade union leaders play a crucial role in the fight for better working conditions of millions of workers in Malaysia, often putting their jobs and livelihoods on the line.

“It is encouraging to know that a High Court has lent its support to these brave individuals,” he said.

Lim said hopefully this decision could empower trade union leaders to have the courage to defend workers’ rights and that it would shield trade union leaders from companies which are determined to clamp down on union activities unlawfully.