Kuching International airport 1

KUCHING: The Airlines Workers’ Union Sarawak (AWUS) commended Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari for taking keen interest in the latest development affecting Malaysia Airlines.

The union was hopeful this would make it easier for the state government to provide assistance to the affected Sarawakian employees to be assimilated into other industries in the state.

AWUS represents airline workers attached to the Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) and its subsidiaries; Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), MASwings Sdn Bhd (MW), Aerodarat Services (ADS) and MABkargo based in Sarawak.

“The statement by our chief minister shows that he is closely monitoring the latest development with a view to assist affected Sarawakians currently employed by the national airline, is very much welcoming and timely,” said its president Jagjiwan Singh in a media statement issued from Sibu on Monday.

He suggested for Sarawak to look into the possibility of having a state government-owned commercial airline.

“This is perhaps the best option.”

“A home-grown commercial airline run by the state government would enable the state to have better connectivity within Sarawak and beyond instead of being dictated by airlines based from outside the state. It will also ensure Sarawak is connected to the right destination of choice,” he added.

Jagjiwan said the current early retirement scheme being offered to employees of Malaysia Airlines was the third since the first round of lay-offs, through a mutual separation scheme (MSS), in 2006.

The second round of lay-offs was in 2015 till 2017 through the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS).

Malaysia Airlines System Berhad (MAS) itself was also closed in 2015 under a restructuring programme and was replaced by a new company, MAB and its other subsidiaries with MAB eventually becoming its parent company.

“Many Sarawakians employed by Malaysia Airlines and its subsidiaries in Sarawak were hard hit during the restructuring schemes in 2006 and 2015 as there are not many areas in Sarawak that have a need for skills related to the airline industry.

“Also, many of the affected workers were past their prime for reskilling to other industries and while pay-outs from the MSS/VSS didn’t last very long due to various personal commitments prior to their lay-off,” he added.