SIA reassures cabin crew on medical leave system

I refer to the article “SIA reassures cabin crew on medical leave system” (Straits Times, Feb 9).

“Deserving cabin crew will not be denied promotions and rewards”

It states that “Deserving cabin crew will not be denied promotions and rewards just because they may fall ill from time to time, Singapore Airlines (SIA) said.

In a circular issued yesterday to reassure staff – a copy of which was obtained by the Straits Times – SIA said that doing so was not tenable “as we would inevitably be depriving ourselves of good people moving up to assume leadership positions“.

The note came after some crew members complained that the current scheme discourages those who are genuinely ill from taking medical leave.

Employees have incentive points that are docked when they submit a medical certificate – recorded as casual MC – for common ailments such as cold and cough.

Everyone starts with 10 points each year, which are progressively deducted and all lost once 12 casual MCs are accumulated.

Still no details?

SIA did not provide details of the scheme but said in its circular that the MC component makes up 4 to 6 per cent of the annual appraisal. When decisions are made on promotions, other factors are also taken into account and there is an interview round as well.

“We do, however, track crew who take many days of MC,” SIA said.

This is to ensure that the employee is all right and to render any assistance necessary.”

A policy and practice that is fundamentally wrong?

A discriminatory human resource policy and practice related to an employee’s health condition, may arguably be morally, humanely and legally (as I understand it in most developed countries but not in Singapore) wrong.

So, whether it is 4 per cent, or 6 per cent arguably, may not make it an acceptable human resource policy and practice.

Cabin crew voice concerns that policy will continue unchanged?

This may be underscored by the remarks “Meanwhile, cabin crew who contacted The Straits Times said that they were disappointed with the airline’s latest circular. “It is quite clear that management sees nothing wrong with the current practice. There is no mention of a possible review or rethink, which is quite disheartening,” said one.

Another steward said: “By all means, track and punish those who abuse the sick leave system. It’s justified. But bottom line, the current system penalises everyone, including those who are genuinely ill. It does not matter how much weightage is given to the MC component. The fact that it is taken into account is unfair.””

Other staff?

Does this issue apply to other staff (non-cabin crew) as well?

Taking “sick leave “for the wrong reasons””?

As to “It is also important to make sure that there is no abuse of the medical leave system because when someone takes sick leave “for the wrong reasons”, others on standby have to be activated” – as I understand that a MC is given by a registered medical practitioner in a licensed medical institution – I wonder how does one make a fair and objective determination as to whether an employee “takes sick leave “for the wrong reasons””?

Poses a risk to passengers?

With regard to “SIA stressed that turning up for work when crew feel unwell is unacceptable as it poses a risk not just to the staff, but also to colleagues and passengers” – by not changing its current policy – will it not continue to pose “a risk not just to the staff, but also to colleagues and passengers”?

Inquiry into the leading stewardess’ death?

In respect of “The concerns raised by cabin crew follow the death of leading stewardess Vanessa Yeap, 38, in San Francisco last week.

She was due for a return flight to Singapore, with a stopover in Hong Kong, when she was found dead in her hotel room. She had allegedly told her colleagues that she was not feeling well. The cause of death has yet to be certified” – will there be an inquiry into the circumstances leading to her demise?

Any comment from the authorities?

As to “The Manpower Ministry is in touch with the airline and the union representing cabin crew about the concerns” – when can we expect some indication from the unions, TAFEP, MOM, etc, on the subject arguably, wrongful human resource policy and practice, considering that it may pose a risk to passengers?

Record of HR practices?

In this connection, I googled and it may appear that SIA has arguably had a rather checkered record over the years on its human resource policies and practices, such as:

… “Pilots not offered re-employment at 62 may get as little as $10,000?” (Mar 7, 2014)

… “Malaysiakini: When will ‘Singapore Girl’ get her rights?” (Apr 13, 2013)

… “SIA – making a mockery of government policies” (The New Paper, Sep 18, 2010)


Leong Sze Hian

A.S.S. Contributor

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