4 December 2011
By Andrew Lo
Infighting in organisations can be minimised if members constantly drill into themselves to focus on the job at hand.
I HAVE often lamented about the sorry state of affairs of the trade union movement in our country.
Less than 7% of government workers are members, and in the private sector, the figure is worse at 3%.
There are many reasons: restrictive laws; an ultra rigid Trade Union Department that promotes small in-house unions; most employers are not union friendly, some even anti-union, but that is not surprising.
I think one of the main reasons is the lack of real leadership and organisation capacity.
This leads to serious infighting and jostling for positions. We call ourselves brothers and sisters, and much like what happens when siblings fight, trade union in-fighting and inter-union rivalry can take on epic proportions.
I was an arbitrator of a union. Once this union’s election dispute was referred to me.
Among the complaints by the losing side (of course, the winning side never complains) is that the ballot box should have two keys.
You would think that it is electing the Prime Minister of the country. And this is in-house, with less than 100 members.
More often than not, union elections are keenly contested. Some union elections are hotter than the general polls, and all for honorary positions that are not paid.
There have been cases of unions who were deregistered because the losing side pushed for it. Is it not cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?
I observed that this problem has also affected a few political parties. We all know the sad journey of SNAP and PDBS. Pakatan parties have their fair share, just look at the case of the choice of candidate for the Padungan seat.
SUPP, the oldest political party in Sarawak, will be having its presidential contest soon, and already there are reports of branches being suspended and what not.
Now I am not picking sides here, but I am concerned that officials and leaders, in their desire for positions, might not realise that such infighting only distracts from the purpose that the party is set up for.
Much like trade unions lose focus and instead of fighting for the rights of members, leaders end up fighting for position and personal perks and benefits. The only winner is other parties who have one challenger less.
I also notice that there are hundreds of Chinese associations in the state, split by surnames, dialects, clans, and localities. Do we need so many?
So, contest for position if you must, but always put the organisation first. To achieve this, organisational structure and capacity building are very crucial.
A clear succession plan is critical. There are some unions who have avoided such damaging contest and infighting and their success can be a role model.
Infighting can be minimised if the party or trade union constantly drilled itself to focus on the job at hand. Do what is right, don’t bother about who is right. Be professional, not personal.
Borrow a leaf from the corporate world and have a succession plan; develop and train second line leaders to ensure a smooth transition, empower employees (members) to take ownership. Have ?ndependent directors?to provide check and balance.
Talking about the corporate world, the controversial share swap between MAS and AirAsia has taken off. There has been much debate and Sarawakians were aghast at the spate of cancellation of flights by Firefly.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg has been working overtime on a damage limitation exercise. He made a remarkable achievement of obtaining Federal approval for MASwings to fly to regional destinations.
Johari has also very rightly poured cold water on AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes‘ proposal to build a LCCT for Kuching. This is a sheer waste of money.
AirAsia was supposed to make Kuching one of its hubs. What happened to all those flights to Macau, Bali, Penang?
AirAsia has also come out strongly against Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd’s decision to build aerobridges at klia2, the new low cost terminal.
Without aerobridges, passengers have to step off the plane onto the tarmac. This brings back the romance of air travel of many years ago and which can still be experienced if you fly MASwings ATR 72 and Twin Otters to places such as Ba’Kelalan, Bario or Mukah.
For safety and comfort, I won’t mind paying a few ringgit to use aerobridges. With low cost travel growing much faster than full-service travel, there will come a day when the majority of people will travel low cost, so safety and comfort must be paramount, especially in Malaysia when you have downpours.
Whether or not the share swap will benefit MAS remains to be seen. Much as I admire AirAsia for being a pioneer in low-cost air travel and allow everybody to fly, let’s not get carried away and fly too far ahead of ourselves, shall we?
No doubt Fernandes’ charisma has carried AirAsia far after building it up from nothing. His unlimited energy and vision, I admire very much.
But as I mentioned earlier, there must be a clear succession plan for long-term success as a corporate entity, not a personality-driven company.
He owns English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers. I note that very soon after the share swap, MAS becomes the away jersey sponsor.
I also note that Tune Group, which is also related to Fernandes, sponsors the Premier League referees. So if QPR plays my beloved Liverpool, the opponents and the referee are sponsored by the same group.
Fernandes is also vocal about the decision of Malaysia Airports to increase the PSC tax. Good for him to fight for low-cost travellers. I also ask him not to charge me convenience fees for online reservations, online payments and online check-ins.
Is it not for the convenience and cost-saving of the airline as well? Why should I pay for their convenience? Oh yes, what happens to the PSC we have paid when we cancel our flights?
I accept their no-refund policy, but surely this should not apply to fuel surcharge and PSC. As I have paid their convenience fee and paying by credit card, surely they can simply refund to my card. No?
Fernandes also owns the Lotus 1Malaysia F1 Racing team. It was embroiled in a very public dispute with Lotus Renault F1 team, owned by Proton, which was eventually settled.
Come to think of it why does Malaysia need three F1 teams, the other being Petronas, the title sponsor of Mercedes.
Apart from top executives travelling around the world, what has it contributed to domestic consumption and purchasing power of ordinary Malaysians?