Painting chairs and the demands of my new Italian homework kept me off the boards for the last couple of days. Well and the odd glance at the Open golf on Sky Italia to be honest. Exciting stuff.
The Alitalia Etihad deal grinds on . If you remember Etihad have demanded all cost saving measures including salary cuts and 2,100 redundancies be completed before they take over and Alitalia has been meeting with the unions all week. Predictably the pilots union has walked out telling the other unions to find more savings to protect the pilots from any cut.
My father was a pilot but I have to say that during my time with British Airways I came across some amazing stuff from these professionals and their militant union.
BA at one time had cargo aircraft and as a cost saving removed the steward whose only job was to serve the two flight crew a meal and soft drinks. I was based in Dubai as a traffic officer and the first cargo only without a steward came through. The new crew joined in Dubai and I went out with the flight plan and weight and balance. I also had the chit for the two meals we had put on board. Sign these please Captain. What’s this he asked picking out the meal chit. I told him. I’m not signing it he said it is not in our agreement. We need more money to sign this. I kid you not. They were already getting more money for having to serve themselves their meal.
I said I would sign it and he said he would not accept my signature as the meals were in the oven in the small galley and he would not get up to check if they were really there. Impasse. I phoned his flight manager in London. He in turned called his boss and he his. We waited . Balpa the union were phoned by the pilots and the flight was delayed indefinitely. 24 hours later a new agreement was thrashed out and the pilots got more money for signing the chit. 28 hours later the flight took off for Singapore.
Of course all the papers here are full of MH17. Robert Mark who edits the Aviation International News has done some work on the idea that MH17 was 300 miles off it’s normal course and therefore right over the war zone. He has looked back at the Flightaware website that tracks in real time all aircraft using their transponders.
All the previous MH 17 flights over the last 20 days have tracked much further south.
Mh have denied this but there is a belief that the pilot either was trying to save fuel or maybe drifted a little.
We spent 10 weeks last winter in Malaysia and were there when MH370 disappeared. As is my wont I was in a bar in Penang and learnt more about the way things are run in Malaysia and as a National Carrier at MH. I print here an extract :-
It is a pleasant place in that everyone sits at two long tables and eats and drinks. A stall dispenses hot noodle soup with some unknown “fresh” fish in it and a friendly Chinese Malaysian dispenses beer from an efficient fridge. It means you get to chat to a variety of locals mainly over the age of 50 years. That is because in their wisdom in the early 1980′s the then ruling coalition decided to do away with teaching English in schools having already in the 1970s decided to do away with the teaching of all subjects in English. The result has been of course that Malaysia has plummeted down the league scale for English fluency ever since. They have reinstated English as a lesson but the majority of youngsters struggle with the language.
Last night I sat next to a Tamil Malay born here in 1962 just around the corner from the bar. His name was Sam and he runs a small car rental business in the big tourist area of Batu Ferranghi a few clicks up the road. He was fluent in English and told me how he had insisted on English as the language at home to help his son also become fluent. His son is a micro biologist having managed to get into a government university as part of the 10% of non Malays allowed entry. He however wasn’t able to find a job in the sector here through the quota system and had now moved to Singapore where he was earning enough money to help Sam and his wife out by sending 1,500 ringit ( £300) a month back home for them. He had joined the Malaysian brain drain.
The bar is of course Chinese and Tamil in make up as the Malays are forbidden alcohol but they all seemed to think Malaysia was beginning to look very bad on the world stage.
Mention was made of 6/3/1 on several occasions in the bar and I asked what that referred to. Quota for jobs was the reply. 10 jobs available then 6 must be given to Malays, 3 to Chinese and 1 to Tamil or others. But I stuttered that is discrimination pure and simple . Yes they replied.
Intrigued I did some research today on the causes of this and the big one is the NEP or National Economic Plan launched in 1970 following the race riots of 1969. So some quick facts;
Malaysia is made up of 54.8% Malays or Bumipura as they like to be called, 24.1% Chinese, 7.2% Tamil and 12.9% others. However at Independence in 1957 the Bumipura had just 2% of the wealth of the country. This was because they tended to live in Kampongs and had happily stayed an agricultural society. The British had first bought in Chinese to do the work needed to run the country and then the Tamils.
Belatedly The Brits during the run up to independence started to involve the Malays more and started an affirmative action plan . This continued after independence but with little effect culminating in the race riots. NEP brought in quotas for jobs, university places, schools, and businesses designed to bring Malays into the body of the country by 1990 when the NEP was to be abolished. However 1990 came and went and the quotas remained.
Malaysian politics make the Italian system look dead easy to understand. I spent all day on my bed chair in the sun trying to make sense of all the coalitions etc without any success. But basically the political parties are all based on race and certainly at their conferences aren’t wildly complementary to the other peoples of the country.
I read loads of articles by Ooi Kee Beng who heads up the South East Asia Studies group and he often makes the comparison between NEP and the old South African apartheid system as similar in objective. He continues that such racial discrimination where things like jobs, social security and housing benefits etc are decided by race not by need or ability actually leaves the Malays with a sense of entitlement that in the long run does them and the country no good and leads to the brain drain and resentment that is happening now.
Malays do not need to take A levels to get into to University but a more simple truncated exam, professors often resign from universities when faced with having to pass them for degrees. They get reserved jobs and are at the top of the pile for new ones. Imagine the outcry if when Gordon Brown talked about British jobs for British people he really meant only Protestant Anglo Saxon British people . Would Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg be doing business with such a country ? Well they are with Malaysia
Where the quota system is really enforced is, of course, in government departments and it is sobering to think that Malaysian Airlines is government owned. Yes it is on the stock exchange but the main investors are the States of Malaysia. Any loss is born by the tax payer and they have been losing considerable sums for years. So are the people at the top of Malaysian Airlines really the best people in Management and making key decisions? How do they sort things like flightcrew seniority and engineering excellence given the 6/3/1 quota ? I don’t know but they seem worthwhile questions . Is the man with four stripes sitting in the cockpit the best man for the job or merely selected on the quota. Is the other person the first officer the best or again just high on the quota.