PETALING JAYA, Jun 19 – Outgoing Malaysian Airlines Bhd (MAS) CEO Christoph Mueller said he had to cut 6,000 jobs because many of the 20,000 employees were “doing nothing”. According to reports in online news portal, Malaysiakini, he had said that he was not impressed with the state MAS was in when he took over.
Muller said despite announcements by the government, a turnaround wasn’t initiated by the time he became CEO. He said many of the 20,000 employees who worked for the airline had nothing to do. In fact, he said when he walked through the hangars, people were sleeping.
He said that’s why he had to radically cut 6,000 jobs. He told this to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) on its web portal. He said MAS was in dire straits before he took over because of poor personnel management and a bloated workforce. He said that was why he laid off 6,000 workers and streamlined the firm’s operations.
In an immediate response, the National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (Nufam) hit out against Mueller, saying he was an outsider and might not understand the work culture in this country Nufam said that there might be reasons why employees were caught sleeping on the job as some workers had 24 hour shifts while some also worked overtime causing them to be tired at the end of their shifts.
“It is unlikely workers turned up to their workplace just to sleep. Why sleep at the office? It is more comfortable to sleep at home or they could even take the day off if they have not rested,” it said. Nufam called on Mueller to provide proof that the workers had been sleeping on the job.
It said it is very important that the cabin crew has to get enough sleep because it would freshen them up for long flights. It said sleep should not be a reason why an airline like MAS should sack its employees! Mueller also said MAS also suffered from a bloated and overpriced supply chain, partly because the airline bought products from suppliers at prices 20% to 25% higher than market value.
“Everything from pens to US$200 million (RM817 million) aircraft were purchased at these rates. I am not saying that we were bad negotiators, and in any case corruption is punishable also in Malaysia,” he told DW, delicately explaining the matter. Mueller also pointed out that MAS had about 20,000 suppliers and, as a result, the glut made it difficult for the airline to get a volume discount from anyone.
“Malaysia Airlines has a proud heritage. It’s known as the epitome of Asian customer service. Given the country’s macroeconomic conditions, with economic growth averaging over five percent for 55 years now, it’s difficult not to make money with this airline,” he said. He observed that the previous so-called turnaround plans announced for the airline were half-hearted at best.