MAS right to sack union leader for misconduct, rules Court of Appeal

The RM210,000 in back wages and compensation awarded to Ismail Nasaruddin, who was president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia, was also quashed. (Facebook pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal by Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) over the dismissal of a trade union leader for misconduct after he issued a press statement to highlight the plight of workers and called for the chief executive officer’s resignation.

A three-member bench, chaired by Hanipah Farikullah, said the High Court was wrong in setting aside the award of the Industrial Court.

She said Ismail Nasaruddin, who was the president of the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam), could have pursued other legal means before issuing the statement.

“The High Court was wrong in setting aside the award. The Industrial Court award is hereby affirmed,” she said.

Following this ruling, the compensation, in lieu of reinstatement, of RM210,000 in back wages awarded to Ismail was quashed.

The bench, which included judges Lee Heng Cheong and M Gunalan, also ordered Ismail to pay RM5,000 in costs to MAS.

N Sivabalah.

Lawyer N Sivabalah, who represented the airline, submitted that provisions in the Industrial Relations Act and Trade Unions Act did not give union members or office-bearers any immunity if one had committed serious misconduct.

“The High Court also erred in stating that Section 22 of the Trade Unions Act conferred immunity to those who were members of a union in furtherance to a trade dispute,” said Sivabalah, who was assisted by Jamie Goh.

Ismail, represented by Lim Wei Jiet, said any action against office-bearers for misconduct would tantamount to interference in trade union activities.

Lim said he would take instruction from his client whether to file an appeal in the Federal Court.

On Sept 4 last year, judge Nordin Hassan ruled that it was unlawful for MAS to dismiss Ismail for giving the interview in the course of trade union activities.

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

Following Nordin’s ruling, the matter was reverted to the Industrial Court where MAS was ordered to pay Ismail RM210,000.

In 2013, Ismail gave an interview to The Sun Daily to highlight the concerns of workers in relation to claims of being overworked and underpaid, and 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 last year, the tribunal upheld MAS’ decision to sack the employee.