Not a bailout to save airlines hit by Covid-19, says union

The National Union of the Flying Attendants of Malaysia says funds must be allocated as the airline industry is a vital cog in the national economy.

KUALA LUMPUR: Injecting public funds to save airline companies that have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic should not be seen as a bailout, said the National Union of the Flying Attendants of Malaysia (Nufam).

Nufam president Ismail Nasaruddin.

Its president, Ismail Nasaruddin, said the massive “overnight” losses incurred by the airlines were not due to mismanagement but due to the abrupt halt to world travel.

“The term bailout should only apply to cases where public funds are used to save companies from going under as a result of their own mismanagement and financial misconduct.

“As such, any injection of funds by the government to reboot the aviation industry must be considered as a stimulus package because the airline industry is a vital cog in the national economy.

“It is one that provides the boost to many associated sectors,” Ismail said at a Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) webinar on Covid-19 and Protection of Workers —What is wrong?

Ismail said the ailing airline industry in Malaysia is in need of urgent help from the government.

He said more than 100,000 employees, including pilots, flight attendants and ground staff, have been hit with either a salary freeze or forced to take massive salary cuts.

He said the government had somehow failed to understand that most of the airline workers in the country earn a low basic salary and depend on various allowances to sustain themselves and their dependents.

“Local airline employees then suffered another setback when their Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash aid applications were rejected as the Inland Revenue Department deemed them to be ‘overqualified’ for the aid, based on their 2019 income when the industry was ‘normal’.

“Many of these workers had their allowances frozen or reduced and were forced to take pay cuts when Malaysia and most other countries grounded flights to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.

Ismail said special focus should be given to the aviation industry to help it prepare for the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 as well as to cushion the impact for the next 12 months while the economy slowly picks up.

He also called on those in the top airline management to take pay cuts and reduce their perks voluntarily. This included forgoing huge bonuses, travel and financial perks for the board of directors.

“The savings from this will not affect the comfort and luxurious lifestyles of these top officials as they already earn very high salaries.

“But it will save thousands of jobs of the low-income category,” he said.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.