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Salient. Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 42 No. 8. April 23 1979

MAS, More Information

MAS, More Information

Dear Sir,

I am surprised that Michael Anda has come out out strongly in support of the M'sian Govt, during the recent Malaysian Airline System (MAS) dispute by presenting his other side of the argument.

Michael's insidious little bit of union bashing is a gross oversimplification of the entire industrial dispute. He suggested that the whole thing started because 4 or 5 aircrew of a flight reported in sick, followed by sabotage attempts on MAS aircrafts. Far from that, workers' discontent has been simmering for the last 3 years. Michael fails to see the root of the problem - low wages and a steady deterioration in working conditions. To give examples of what I mean, a worker was sacked because he refused to do overtime on his day off! Others were told to work even during their meal-breaks. There has been no wage increase during the past 3 years and no standard of living adjustments either. These are the causes of the dispute, not Asian, flu.

As for sabotage of MAS aircrafts. There is to date no evidence to show that the Airline Employees Union (AEU) was responsible for the alleged "sabotage". In fact there isn't even any concrete evidence that aircrafts have been tampered with, though such so called "sabotage" was rather eagerly reported in all the leading newspapers in M'sia which are little more than mouth-pieces for the ruling party.

What Michael also failed to point out is that the Govt, used the excuse of "sabotage" to ground the airline and deregister the union. 18 union officials were then arrested, and are still held in detention. 20 were sacked and 221 were suspended. A recruiting exercise to fill 500 jobs was than advertised and new workers were paid a substantially higher wage scale than those currently suspended. In fact they were even paid higher than what the union has asked for in the first place.

Michael's defence of the Malaysian Government overkill is incomprehensible. Surely he does not suggest that the present detention of the 18 union officials under the Internal Security Act, without trial and for an indefinite period as warranted? The go-slow by AEU was in no way a danger to essential services. Roads and rail links remained opened throughout the dispute.. In fact even air services were kept opened until the government stepped in.

To add to my other side of the story, a few "scab workers under the direction of the ruling UMNO's Labour Bureau set up a 'new' union when the government deregistered the AEU. Surprise, surprise, the 'new' union was based in one of the suites in the plush expensive [unclear: Hon] Jaya Puri. Guess who footed the bill?

The latest attempt by the Malaysian [unclear: Goverment] to crush legitimate organised labour is [unclear: pari] of the plan to ensure that the industrial climate is conducive to foreign investors. In the MAS dispute, AEU had the support of the powerful National Electricity Board Union, the 4 Port Kelang waterside unions with a combined total of 10,000 waterside workers and even the support of the pro-Govt. Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC). The Port Kelang waterside workers had already expressed support for AEU and as result troops were deployed on the waterfront as a show of strength.

If the huge deployment of troops on the [unclear: wa] terfront in Port Kelang to imtimidate the [unclear: whar] (there wasn't even a strike there!) and the [unclear: detestation] without trial of union officials are not [unclear: str] arm tactics, tell me what is?

Mana Keadilan