Thursday, September 13, 2007

E-mail to Idris Jala, Malaysia Airlines boss

From Audra Atkinson, former chief stewardess, sacked for having a third baby.
Audra joined Malaysia Airlines as a stewardess in 1989 and received various commendations. In 2003, however, two years after being promoted as chief stewardess, Audra was sacked by the airline for conceiving a third child.
She sent this e-mail to Idris Jala in 2006, wishing him well and hoping for understanding. It was to no avail. Last week, I attended the proceeding of her case at the Industrial Court. Idris Jala's Malaysia Airlines seemed determined to kill off any hope or desire on Audra's part to be "forgiven" by the national carrier for giving birth to another Malaysian.

Please take time to read her mail. In the spirit of Ramadan, I appeal to Idris to have some compassion. The benefits of Ramadan are not confined to Muslims.

Audra's husband, Tony Yew, a former steward with Mas, posted a chronology of the case here after the Sept 5 hearing. Deadline for her final submission is October 5. (Tony and Audra served a combined 21.5 years with the airline).

(Former Chief Stewardess) Audra Denise Atkinson
Staff No: xxxxxx-2

7 March 2006

En Idris Jala
Managing Director
30th Floor
Bangunan MAS
Jln Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur

Dear Sir,

Ref: Audra Denise Atkinson vs. Malaysia Airlines [Industrial Relations Court ref:JPP(W.P/S) Sek 20/2435/2003]

First, let me congratulate you on your recent appointment as Managing Director of Malaysia Airlines. I read with interest your plans to turn around the company, and sincerely wish you and your team the best.

I draw your attention to the above reference, and would like to tell you why I am writing to you. For one, I am doing so in hope that you will be able to see this case from the viewpoint of a loyal and dedicated employee.

I was employed in August 1989, starting of as a Trainee Flight Stewardess, and moving up the ranks until my appointment as Chief Stewardess, on 15th July 2002. During my tenure of service, I have received numerous commendations both from passengers and superiors, as well as acknowledgements from the management with regard to my performance as a cabin crew with the Company. It was also during this time, when getting selected as a member of the crew to serve on the Prime Minister’s Chartered Flight, to ferry his entourage to various countries, was seen as a privilege; something most crew would see as a reward.

I was fortunate to have served on two such flights.

During my tenure of service, I have not had any complaints made towards me from any of my superiors, or peers, and I take pride in that. My service record, to my knowledge, is unblemished.

However, in 2003, specifically on 30th October 2003, on finding out that I was pregnant with my third child, one which by the grace of god was bestowed upon me, I immediately contacted my union (MASEU) and sought assistance to seek a ground position.

A meeting was held between the then, Manager of Cabin Crew, Encik Kamal Azran and the Union Officials, during which I was requested to draft an application for a ground position for the attention of the management. Subsequently on the 31st of October 2003, I was issued a termination letter. I then lodged a wrongful termination with the Industrial Relations Department under Section 20 on 10th November 2003.

I appealed my termination to the General Manager of Human Resources, on 10th November 2003. The Industrial Relations Dept then called for an conciliation meeting on the 14th of January 2004, during which I was asked if I was keen on a ground position. Following advice from MASEU, I again appealed for reinstatement, on 16th January 2004. On 19th January 2004, En Chong Min Sin, acting on behalf of the General Manager of Human Resources sent a letter for the attention of The Director General of Industrial Relations Dept (W.P/S) requesting them to drop my case, as the company was in the process of offering me a job. On the other hand, I was never informed of this. However, what I was informed was that my appeal was turned down on the 19th of February 2004.

My case was referred to the Industrial Relations Court by the Minister Of Human Resources vide a letter dated 1st December 2005. My case was mentioned on 8th February 2006, and will again be mentioned on 16th May 2006.

My case is being handled by MASEU, through the services of an attorney. Malaysia Airlines is being represented by Skrine & Co.

On 8th February, at 3.00pm, I was called to be interviewed by the Asst General Manager of Customer Services MAS, Encik Kamal Azran as well as a representative of Human Resources, Encik Shahrom. Durin this interview, I was asked about my intentions, and the job that I would like to apply for.

Sir, I am writing to you to highlight to you that I am merely a person looking to restore my position in society. I have undergone enough stress, as well as financial setback, since my termination. My fault? I had a third child. I seek your understanding, and I am sure from your experience, working for an MNC, that these rules, are perhaps not for today’s society. Given the length and cost of my case, I am merely asking for a reinstatement to my old job, one that I take pride in, and have been told many times, that I was good at. At this point, I would also like to inform you that one of my appeals, in 2005, through the advice of MASEU was to apply for the position of Grooming Officer in the Cabin Crew Dept. Speaking to the Manager, she welcomed my application and added that I was suitable for the position and she had no objections to my applying. However, because of my outstanding case, she could not consider me unless I was reinstated.

Your plans to resurrect the company included a call for proper resource planning and management, and I can safely say that I will fit hand in glove into this role, not to mention that I need a job, to sustain my family.

I was advised against any form of communication officially, with the company, but I take the view that having made our intentions clearly to each other, perhaps we can settle this amicably.

I know that you do not have to act on this simply because I wrote to you, but I sincerely hope that you are able to see this from my point of view, and assist me in getting back to where I was.

Lastly, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I am attaching various documents to support my claim.

I remain hopeful for your reply, and kind assistance.
Yours Sincerely,

Audra Atkinson


  1. Anonymous2:18 pm

    Saya bersimpati dgn nasib Audra. There are thousands other cases like this waiting to be heard.

    En Ahiruddin, adakah anda bersedia untuk menyiarkan kes-kes "industrial court" yg lain sekiranya diketengahkan? Rasanya, ramai lagi inginkan pembelaan...bukan setakat Audra.

    Selamat Berpuasa!

  2. She does seem to have a stron case.

  3. Anonymous2:35 pm

    dear rocky,

    my views maybe quite different from others... if audry signed the agreement with MAS aware of the clause stating that for mas stewardess only permitted to have two childs then MAS decision is right..

    If there is no mentioning about conceving third babies for MAS stewardess... then MAS should be remind..

  4. Anonymous2:45 pm


    Our third child came into our lives late last year. What a bundle of joy! The two boys now have a sister! And I have a daughter!

    Mas' ruling does not just discriminaagainst women, it is against life.

    Mr idris Jala has an opportunity to seek forgiveness for such a policy.

    Please fight for Audra and all third babies.

  5. Anonymous2:46 pm


    Our third child came into our lives late last year. What a bundle of joy! The two boys now have a sister! And I have a daughter!

    Mas' ruling does not just discriminaagainst women, it is against life.

    Mr idris Jala has an opportunity to seek forgiveness for such a policy.

    Please fight for Audra and all third babies.

  6. Anonymous2:55 pm

    Dear Sweet Audra & My friend Tony,

    I'll walk with you...

  7. As a new employee in MAS (back then in 1989) when you get the letter of offer, it tells you that you are to adhere to the terms of employment (in which they also tell you , that you will only be given a copy of the terms of employment, after your confirmation, 6months later).
    Technically, you are accepting terms that are unknown to you.

    So, who is playing on whose naivety?

  8. And now the government servants are allowed to take 5 years un-paid leave upon expiring of maternity leave....their jobs will still guaranteed to be there even though technology would have by-passed them and and their brains would have ceased to function they can still enjoy a comfortable pension !
    Sheeesh ! what ancient laws does MAS have ? Keeping with the times eh Mr. Jala ?? follow your heart as much as you'd use your head, Mr. Jala !
    Cheers !

  9. Anonymous5:41 pm

    Very interesting!!!!

    Audra knew the rules when she was offered the job. That was made crystal clear and she signed the dotted lines....when accepting the job.

    If she was not in favour of that ruling then, it would have been more prudent to decline the offer and seek other employment where such rules do not exist.

    And if she could comply to all other guidelines required of the job she was employed for and could continue without any problem - then why the exception when it came to this matter?

    If now, the rules are forced to be changed retrospectively - imagine the effect and impact....will the others also remain silent?

    MAS has to turnaround the business and that is what Idris was primarily brought in for....!

    Asking him to be forgiving for a situation that was applied according to procedures at a time before he came in????


    Anyway, the management has since then allowed for female crew to have 3 children and yet continue working....This news also was featured in the media some time back...

    Not enough? Idris must still apologise? And make it retrospective to the time before Audra had to leave MAS?

    At the end of it...all things happen for a good cause and reason.....

    This is Malaysia - we all can survive somehow and move on...dont continue to prod the current management for things of the past.... They have a job to do as well.

    Dont go far folks. See my friend Rocky...he left Jalan Riong, but now...he has so much space to breathe and openly air his views...which he could not then...

    Is that not beneficial for many of us?

    He made it...with so much of sincere support from all of us...

    Audra also has every opportunity to also apply to other employers (like Firefly, MASWings, other airlines) for positions that she can excel from the start based on her experience and training given by MAS.

    Come on Audra..please move forward...and your lovely kids will admire you more for how you overcame such challenges and could meaningfully help them also to be wonderful citizens of this country of opportunities.

    Do introspect a bit. Did MAS train you well so much so that you can use that valuable experience to secure better jobs in this country?

    By the way, jobs dont come searching for us...we go after them and still have the right to make our choices (to accept or reject). No one can take this right away from us individuals.

    In the end - lets all accept there are rules and we have to just abide if we want to wake up every day with a clear conscience.

    Dont just treat MAS like a lame duck and continue shooting - just to level scores, because in the first place MAS did not do anything wrong then. The rules were already there.

    And MAS is not the only employer in this country.

  10. Anonymous9:20 pm

    Too bad this is how cruel in the business world. A company has to report to share holders and the share holders' interests is first to be protected. Think about you buy MAS share and one day the price keep dropping, would you hang on it? How about price going up, would you let it go to make the profit? If you don't sell of, would you expect some dividen?

    Find the agreement and see if there is anything Audra can get compensation from MAS. If not, she has to move on.

  11. An employee should know
    The terms and conditions in a service contract
    You can’t hide the fact you signed it
    You can’t claim it isn’t fair

    When it happens
    The company has the right to rescind the contract
    The employee then has no rights to appeal
    The laws will be on the company
    This is a straight forward case

    When the contract stated no 3rd child while in service
    It means no 3rd child pregnancy while on duty to the company
    Any employee infringes on its core condition(s)
    The employment contract should be terminated

    It is a sad case in MAS
    The legal contract is binding to the employee
    Only the CEO could allow reinstatement
    But now it is in the Industrial Court
    He may not want to interfere

    Now it lies on compassionate grounds
    It is only the CEO could decide
    Yet he doesn’t respond for months
    So I guess he doesn’t want to acknowledge
    He lets the Court decides

  12. Anonymous10:11 pm

    i do agree to an extent of your views, ppl should be responsible of their decisions..

  13. Anonymous10:33 pm

    I've been reading ur column for quite some time, Bro Rocky but with all due respect, I rate this as ur worst ever post. The way the letter was drafted, as if she was conned when it was very clear that she knew all along about the restriction. Bro Rocky, this case simply highlight the problem with us Malaysians in general. We, Malaysians, tend to abide to terms which are advantageous to us but will always try to find means and ways to elude terms which are to the advntage of the other party. One other example of this kind attitude was during the proposed MU visit to Malaysia when we requested AFC to bend the rules which we've known all along just becos it's our 50th national day. I agree with the last comment that all in all there are other employers in Msia for us to earn a living unless we are the types who keep dwelling on our past glories.

  14. Anonymous10:28 am

    As a Sarawakian, I am not pround of Jala if he can't accept Audra's appeal. Management most of the time is not only about laws, regulations and policies but also about love, being considerate, give and take....etc.. after all baby is Allah's gift. Beside this case, Jala has also made thousands of rural lives difficult with his decision on the Rural Air Service including people from Bario, his birthplace of which he maybe had forgotten.

  15. Anonymous10:40 am

    Getting a third child and termination of service. Though cruel it seems, this piece of man-made rule has been there since the birth of MAS.

    It is man-made so it will do for a man to re-make it again for the better.

    Anyway, Mr Idris Jala, I was told, is a Christian and not a Muslim.

  16. Anonymous10:40 am

    Getting a third child and termination of service. Though cruel it seems, this piece of man-made rule has been there since the birth of MAS.

    It is man-made so it will do for a man to re-make it again for the better.

    Anyway, Mr Idris Jala, I was told, is a Christian and not a Muslim.

  17. Anonymous10:48 am

    If ANON 5.41 pm is correct, then Audra's case has brought some changes. it is sad that she had to be one of the fallen soldiers but that sometimes happen. Maybe she should move forward and get a job elsewhere becasue even if she gets back in, there is so much bad blood betweeen her and the employer that se will nto be happy.... just my thought

  18. Anonymous12:36 pm

    Bro Rocky,

    Ramai giler yg kerje dgn MAS that has various problems with it's policies. Termination within MAS for ridiculous reason's or contract not renewed for no reasons are nothing new.
    Perhaps it is because of the long tenure with MAS makes it even tougher to leave the company. Please bare in mind that MAS at least have kept their bargain and have kept her in service that long and the termination only came after a volation of the contract.
    It would not seem far to many others who had to leave MAS for similar reasons if she were to be pardoned.

    If there's anything that needs to be done is the amendment of the contract and policies itself. This would not change anything for this case. Only change protect future employees from such discrimination.

    Just my 2cents.


  19. hi anon..,

    what a great comment above.

    I was about to be symphatetic to the Audra, but after reading it from different POV (point-of-view), I think Anon is right in advising audra to move on.

    If MAS have trained her so well, as per Audra's letter, she should not face any problem at all, finding a job elsewhere (with other MNC as well?)

    That is, if MAS have a clear regulation that allow each female flight attendant to have 2 kids only laa. And the staff have signed it.

    I rest my case.., I hope audra will send an update to her case.

    thank you.


  20. Anonymous1:20 pm

    Truth hurts. Agree with what anon (5.41pm) commented.

  21. Anonymous1:25 pm

    Audra wants only her job back. She wants to be reinstated. This is example of how dedicated and committed someone is to her job. She is not suing Malaysia Airlines, she just wants her job back.

    Why the hell won't Malaysia Airlines give her job back?

    Sounds to me like Audra is a damn good at what she does. With people like her out, no wonder the quality of Malaysia Airlines' cabin crew has gone down very, very badly.

    Jala, the airline business is not about bottomline only; it is also providing service from the bottom of the heart.

    I say 1/ give back Audra her job and
    2/ abolish the stupid ruling in the CA
    p.s. I agree with someone here, if Malaysia Airlines is allowing stewardesses with more than two kids to be part of its cabin crew now, why not include Audra?

  22. Anonymous1:35 pm

    Setuju dengan Pak Din dan pembaca lain:

    ubahsuai perjanjian bersama antara kesatuan sekerja dan pihak majikan. tidak ada sebab mengapa ibu yang sudah beranak dua atau tiga tidak bisa bekerja sebagai peramugari. pilihan patut dibuat oleh ibu/peramugari berkenaan.

    menteri yang bertanggungjawab tentang hal-ehwal wanita sepatutnya mara kedepan untuk menangani isu ini.

  23. Anonymous1:49 pm

    Anonymous 5:41pm

    Just so you know the facts of the case.
    When Audra was terminated, the CA in affect at that time only allowed 2 pregnancies, the Union (MASEU) was at that time negotiating for a renewal of the CA to include third pregnancies (This despite the fact that Malaysian Employment act supercedes all terms of CA if the CA in effect is deemed to be less favourable, this is also noted in the collective agreement under legislation).
    When Audra joined MAS, and as did ALL other crew members at that time, it states that all employees must adhere to the terms (refer to CA) and this is clearly spelt out in the letter of offer. The following statement clearly show the irresponsibility of the company 'It states that a copy of this terms will be provided after the confirmation of the employee (six months probation). So who is playing on whose naiviety?

    The fact remains, MASEU used the much publicised case of Audra's 3rd pregnancy to put pressure on the Management to allow the third pregnancy. As for reinstatement, they just refused to take her back.
    I cant say what I heard at the corridor of the court room the other day, but Rocky already said it, as he was there too.

    Rules are rules, you say? But what if the rules were illegal in the first place? That is the case here.
    Its easy for you to say your piece, but if you truly took the trouble to find out the facts, maybe you did have a different view.
    How about, if this happenned to your wife? Would you say she deserved it? Try giving 14 years of dedicated service to your employers and only to have your services terminated under these circumstances. I just cannot believe that you will actually just turn away and start life anew, knowing that you have done nothing wrong. How did the govt justify 5 years of no pay leave? Ever thought about that?
    If MAS is truly interested in saving money, don't you think that it is wiser to have a senior person take leave for maternity reasons? If MAS does not see it this way, why then would they agree to stewardesses having their 3rd child now? In all CA renegotiations, there are always back pay when it has expired, which means the company will make good of any renewals, but in Audra's case they just refused to reinstate her.

  24. Anonymous1:56 pm

    Pak Din and those who think its fair he way MAS treated Audra.
    There is this Cheif Stewardess who resigned after discovering she was pregnant with a third child. Guess what? MAS took her back restored her seniority despite her resigning...her name is Aishah Salleh. Don't believe me? Ask the UNION SEC GEN, who was instrumental in that decision.

  25. The other thing is whether she was given the option to take a ground post upon the contractual time of third pregnancy. If she was, then the decision tree breaks into two: one, whether the ground post was at the same remuneration, or whether it was below the cabin remuneration. Either, she shouldn't complain, since it was the contractual term which she had implicitly agreed to when she continued beyond the second pregnancy. The matter of whether cabin duty depends on pregnancy frequency is different and until that is resolved, what is contractual applies, however unjust it is - otherwise an event is taken to precipitate a counter-contractual decision, something very few MNCs do.

    There is another matter, not so obvious, because it would be cold, clinical and brutal just to think about.

    What if the plane goes down? Wouldn't it be selfish of a person to leave behind four people just for the perks of flying in the air?
    Seen in that light, the downgrading could actually be a blessing.

    But that's at the expense of all the other people in the plane.

    Now, Jala, since you're following this thread - make a few phone calls yourself at different times to the MAS office in Sentral, and see if you won't be getting conflicting answers on rules and rates.

    Also look at the e-reservation portal of MAS, and see if the reservation dates don't create initial confusion, eg " '07'
    (people might think it's a day)

    Pay attention to details, and we will all get by more smoothly.

  26. Anonymous9:22 pm

    Audra, come on move on with your life. MAS is not the only employer in this country. If you are so good in your job there should not be any problem for you to secure any other job elsewhere. Malaysians, stop blaming others for our misfortune. Look at the case as a whole. Agreement, terms of employment and policies are there.

  27. Anonymous11:51 am

    Does anyone has Audra's email? I would like to offer her a job opportunity at a reputably international company. Kindly email me at