KUALA LUMPUR: The Industrial Court here has awarded more than RM1.2 million in compensation and back wages to three former AirAsia maintenance crew members for their wrongful dismissal from employment three years ago.
Maintenance managers Kok Onn Fatt, Azrul Hisham Azlan and Chan Wei Loon were dismissed by the company during a 2020 restructuring exercise.
AirAsia’s holding company, Capital A Bhd, had wanted to form a new subsidiary, Asia Digital Engineering Sdn Bhd, to provide engineering services for its aircraft as well as those of other commercial airlines in the region.
Kok, Azrul and Chan were offered new positions in Asia Digital, but they refused to accept the job offers as the terms were inferior to their existing ones.
They insisted that the company was obliged to offer them positions that were not lower than their existing roles.
The company rejected their requests and issued notices of termination to them some time in November 2020. The trio were also placed on “garden leave”.
Aggrieved by the decision, they filed representations to the industrial relations department at the human resources ministry, which referred their complaints to the Industrial Court for adjudication.
In a written award dated June 8, court chairman Anderson Ong held that the company had failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that the retrenchments were carried out in good faith.
“The case is not like the other cases decided by this court on retrenchment of airline crew due to a genuine redundancy and financial hardship from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The claimants were retrenched not because their roles and functions have ceased but the company preferred (other) persons for the jobs,” he said.
He also said they were retrenched after they refused to accept positions “lower” than what they had.
“If the law forbids an employer from demoting an employee without just cause or valid reason, this should apply to our cases.
“The claimants have every right to refuse the offer for a significantly lower position without proper and valid justification.
“The action of retrenching them after they refused to accept the offer for a significantly lower position is harsh, oppressive and unfair,” he said.
Ong awarded a total of RM561,328 in compensation and back wages to Kok, while Azrul and Chan received RM388,200 and RM269,790, respectively.