Cut bosses’ pay instead of crew wages, airlines told

A vocal flight attendants union says ordinary staff should not be asked to cut salaries during financial difficulties.

PETALING JAYA: The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) has urged airline companies to be transparent about their losses and cost-saving measures as carriers seek to circumvent the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

A spokesman for the union cautioned airlines against looking for shortcuts to reduce their overhead costs, after Malaysia Airlines Bhd confirmed that its employees have been told they could take voluntary unpaid leave for a number of days.

This comes after the airline reported losses as a result of some 2,000 flight cancellations up to April, following travel restrictions by destination countries in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

But Nufam questioned why salaries of crew members were always the first to be cut in times of financial difficulties.

“The last thing airlines should do is get rid of their employees,” a spokesman told FMT.

“There is no denying that a temporary lay-off plan may be approved, but it has to be subject to a fair process .”

With the Covid-19 outbreak and the consequent flight cancellations and roster changes, he said, crew members were already suffering severe reductions in monthly flight allowances.

“The airlines have already reduced their costs with the reductions in flight allowances. So it will be unfair to further reduce cabin crew’s incomes through long unpaid leaves and pay cuts.”

He said there were many other options open to airlines, such as cutting the pay of executives earning high salaries and reducing the travelling claims and allowances of senior management.

He also said Nufam was advising crew members to consider the offers from their companies carefully and urging them not to sign anything until they understood the terms fully.

“Some of the airlines may not provide the finer details in their letters to employees and these employees may later find themselves in a dilemma,” he said.

“We urge the employees to contact us if they are not certain about the terms in unpaid leave offers.”

He said long unpaid leaves would heavily affect those in the low and medium income brackets and he urged airlines to offer short periods of such leaves.

He also urged the government to quickly dispense the critical allowance of RM200 provided for in the economic stimulus package announced by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to combat the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Malindo Air had also ordered its workers to take pay cuts of up to 50% and two weeks’ unpaid leave.

Malaysia Airlines meanwhile has given staff the option of voluntarily taking five days of unpaid leave per month for at least three months, resulting in 15 days of leave, or between one and three months beginning April.

Previous to this, Malaysia Airlines group CEO Izham Ismail announced that members of senior management would be taking a 10% pay cut and forgoing allowances to reduce operational costs.