KUALA LUMPUR, June 7, 2020: The need for government to save airline companies that were badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic should not be considered as a bailout.
National Union of the Flying Attendants of Malaysia (Nufam) president Ismail Nasaruddin said the term bailout should only be applied in cases when public funds are used to save companies which suffered from mismanagement and financial misconducts.
He said any injection of funds by the government to revive the aviation industry should instead be considered as a stimulus package as it is important to the country’s economy.
Speaking at the 2nd Malaysian Trades Union Congress’ Covid-19 webinar today, Ismail said the airlines sector in Malaysia requires urgent help from the government.
He said the sector has more than 100,000 employees, including pilots, flight attendants and ground staff who had to endure salary freeze or forced to take massive salary cuts due to Covid-19 movement restrictions.
He said the government has so far failed to understand that most airline workers earn low basic salaries and rely on allowances to sustain themselves and their dependents.
“Most had their allowances frozen or reduced, and were forced take pay cuts when Malaysia and most other countries grounded flights to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
Ismail said many local airline employees have also failed with their applications for Bantuan Prihatin cash aid as they were deemed ‘overqualified’ based on their “normal” income of last year.
He said many cabin crew members earned basic salaries as little as RM1,200 and this was reduced by half when the pandemic forced air travel to be halted.
“So, you can imagine the kind of hardship my colleagues and their dependants went through in the last three months. They have all appealed (for Prihatin aid) and I hope the government will understand what the actual problem here is,” he said.
Ismail said the government must not overlook the contributions of the airlines, tourism and related economic sectors.
He also called for members of airlines’ management to take pay cuts and reduce their perks.
“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.