KUALA LUMPUR, October 1- The 14,000 employees of the ‘new’ Malaysia Airlines (MAS), to emerge following its restructuring, need a paradigm shift in work culture to respond to the prevailing competitive standards of today’s aviation industry, former Transport Minister Tan Sri Ong Tee Keat said Wednesday
He said nothing short of a “mental recalibration” within the ailing airline was good enough to ensure the success of the restructuring plan under which MAS was expected to axe some 6,000 employees who would be retrained and absorbed by other companies within Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the majority shareholder of MAS.
Ong praised the setting up of the Outplacement Centre that would handle issues relating to the retrenchment exercise, saying this was the government’s way of going the extra mile in protecting the livelihood of 6,000 people and their families with the skill empowerment and employability being well taken care of.
“This is Putrajaya demonstrating its ‘human face’ but it doesn’t mean that the 6,000 employees have to solely rely on the government. They themselves have to buck up,” he told Bernama.
Ong described the restructuring plan to turnaround MAS to profitability by 2017 as a “tall order” that required the airline itself to buck up but said it was achievable.
“The terrain now is certainly going to be very challenging especially when you talk about the return of British Airways to Malaysia and even more and more foreign airlines are operating here.”And, we have the open skies policy within Asean to come into full implementation by next year,” he said.
Ong recalled he was one of the signatories of the open skies policy when he was transport minister and Malaysia was one of the first Asean nation to spearhead the initiative to connect not just the capital cities within the Southeast Asian region but also some of the second-tier cities well before 2015 when the policy would come on full stream.
“But, now with the implementation of the policy by 2015, certainly it is going to be a real test for MAS, whether or not they could further harness our existing edge in terms of some of the air routes already been endorsed covering the non-capital cities which MAS and AirAsia are already servicing,” he added.
Ong also warned that the new company (NewCo) that was taking over MAS did not have the luxury of time to “warm up”.”There is no such thing. And you have to bite the bullet if you need to. You have to force yourself, you change to reshape the culture, to reshape your mindset in order to have a paradigm shift,” he said.
Prominent economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the outplacement centre to be established was a “very commendable effort” to ensure the 6,000 employees to be laid off are retrained so that they would have a minimal socio-political impact, adding that there would also be no significant economic impact as Malaysia was not facing a very high unemployment situation.
“The labour market is fairly tight, the current situation is actually quite conducive for the restructuring especially to find new placements for the retrenched staff.
“Other airlines such AirAsia are also committed to taking in some of the MAS staff. So the situation is quite conducive to undertake that kind of downsizing and layoffs that have plagued MAS for a long time,” said Dr Yeah, who is Dean of the School of Business at Malaysia University of Science and Technology.
He said Khazanah had put in place a comprehensive restructuring plan involving not just financial reengineering but also the complete organisational restructuring.
What was needed now was to put together a very strong management team with the key being its competency that would ensure much higher chances of the plan’s success.