Illegal for Malindo to cut pay, says air crew union

PETALING JAYA: Malindo Air would be breaking the law if it deducted workers’ salaries because of the coronavirus outbreak, the national union of flight attendants (Nufam) said today.

Malindo Air, the Malaysian arm of Indonesia’s Lion Air, was reported to have ordered staff to take pay cuts of up to 50% and go on two weeks’ unpaid leave because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has severely curtailed air travel.

“Malindo Airways’ decision to cut workers’ salaries is legally wrong,” the union said, pointing out that, under the law, employers could deduct their employees’ pay only under certain circumstances.

Nufam said companies can only recommend that their employees take a sabbatical leave and that too only with the consent of the employees.

It said Malindo Air should not be in a hurry to cut salaries without first disclosing its financial situation. “If there is a need for such action, it must be in line with the law,” it said.

Nufam said the Employment Act allowed for pay cuts only if employees have been overpaid; have left without providing sufficient notice; or for deductions such as for Socso or income tax; or for loan repayments.

The union said Malindo Air should not issue statements without the approval of the Labour Department and the knowledge of the employees.

The Reuters news agency had quoted Malindo Air chief executive Mushafiz Mustafa Bakri as saying that Malindo Air employees had been asked to reduce the number of working days by up to 15 days a month.

He also reportedly said the airline has already suspended flights, appealed to suppliers to defer payments and asked staff to volunteer for unpaid leave.