June 1 is red letter day for Malaysia Airlines staff

Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) air crew walk through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia, on Aug 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) air crew walk through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, Malaysia, on Aug 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Monday will be red letter day for 20,000 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) employees. Their wait to know if they still have a job will be over.

The airline's new chief executive officer Christoph Mueller made it clear that this difficult period of anxiety will be over then.

"We have left our staff for too long with the uncertainty. It's our utmost obligation to put an end to the uncertainty so that everybody can go on with their lives," he said in an exclusive interview with The Star.

On June 1, termination letters will be sent out to all the employees but about two-thirds of the staff will be offered jobs with the new company, MAS Bhd. They have until June 12 to decide if they want to join up on new terms.

The new airline, a smaller entity, will only be able to accommodate about 14,000 employees.

"MAS Bhd needs fewer staff as it will focus on regional routes," said Mueller.

"We have created a talent pool, it is unfortunate and very sad that we have to let go talent."

The termination exercise is part of the plan to remake MAS, whose assets and liabilities will be transferred to MAS Bhd which takes over the operations from Sept 1.

Every staff member terminated will get a base payment depending on their grading.

Those not offered jobs with MAS Bhd will also be entitled to an ex-gratia payment.

Those offered jobs at MAS Bhd will also get bonuses.

Those not employed by MAS Bhd will have to leave the company in stages, but some may be offered short-term contracts.

Mueller said the complete overhaul of the airline might take up to three years and some functions within the airline would be outsourced to partners.

"It is a very complex process, there will not be one cut-off date.

"We have a very slow staggered procedure ... let's say, reduce the head count over more than two years," Mueller said.

As MAS Bhd will be outsourcing some of its functions eventually, others will have to leave later. The new airline will be a completely new airline, with a new look, branding and livery.

Mueller said he did not expect 100 per cent acceptance of the job offers that MAS Bhd would make on Monday.

"If we have an acceptance rate below 100 per cent, we will have a second round and offer those jobs to people who did not receive offers the first time around," he said.

If need be, he added that there "might even be a third round".

He said there could be various reasons for some not wanting to join MAS Bhd, but he would give details on Monday so the staff could make informed decisions.

Asked whether he has decided on who will be on his management team, Mueller said: "Partly yes, and partly no ... let me tell you there are lots of vacancies in the management ranks so we will start the new company with a lot of open positions. We will start advertising next week, internally and externally. In some areas we have enough talent."