From 2-week pay cut to perhaps ‘zero salary’ ahead, prospects are grim for airline worker

The aviation industry has been badly hit by Covid-19, with many airlines encouraging their staff to go on unpaid leave.

PETALING JAYA: Early last month, Luke (not his real name) received an email from his airline’s human resources department asking him to allow a 50% reduction of his pay for the month.

Since he and his wife together were earning about RM10,000, he could survive the cut. So he agreed, knowing it would help the company through a turbulent period.

Now, just about 20 days later, Luke is looking at cheaper brands of milk and diapers for his child because there’s a likelihood that he’ll not earn any income for the next three months.

What was supposed to be a two-week sacrifice looks increasingly like a three-month unpaid leave as his company struggles with the movement control order (MCO) and increasing international flight restrictions.

The aviation industry has been badly hit by Covid-19 and airlines are encouraging their employees to take unpaid leave. It has been reported that Malaysia Airlines has taken such a step, as have Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways.

“We got a memo a week ago saying the company needed only around 15% of the workforce,” Luke told FMT.

“Everyone else is expected to go on an extended period of unpaid leave for three months, and it is extendable to the end of the year.”

He is not among the 15%. To make matters worse, his wife, who earns significantly less than he, is also having her salary reduced by 50% because the company she works for has cash flow problems.

He wonders how long his family can survive.

“The next three months are uncertain for my family,” Luke said. “We are renting the house we live in. So the moratorium on bank loans doesn’t apply to us. I’m still negotiating with our landlord to lower the rent by 50%.

“My elderly parents are staying with us. I’m their only child, so I am supporting them too.”

Luke said some of his colleagues had proposed that the airline allow them to keep working at 50% salary so that they can pay their bills.

“But so far, we haven’t heard anything. Next month, I could be looking at zero salary.”

He is downgrading the contracted services he uses such as mobile and internet packages, and temporarily stopping the allowances he gives to his parents and in-laws.

About the only thing he’s glad for is that his car loans have been fully paid off.

“But my wife travels a lot for work. She drives from KL to Sepang every day. If there is any major breakdown, I don’t know how we will pay for repairs.”

Luke said he hoped the government could help shed some light on options available to people like him.

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