Utusan Can’t Afford to Pay Salaries, Staff Told

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Nearly 100 picket at Utusan office to demand three months’ outstanding salaries.

FMT

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today lambasted Umno politicians who have allegedly ignored the plight of Utusan Malaysia’s staff despite having benefited from the Malay daily’s coverage since its inception.

Its secretary-general J Solomon said the management led by Umno’s former Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir must take responsibility to settle outstanding salaries and severance payments for the last three months.

“There is not enough effort put in by the Utusan management to find a resolution to date,” said Solomon, who was present during a picket by about 100 staff and former staff outside the daily’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.

“It is unfortunate how Utusan staff have been working for the politicians for almost 80 over years. In the last 80 years, they have made many politicians rich, they have protected many politicians in having their positions in the last 80 years.

 

“But in the last one year, whatever effort that has been put in by the workers for the wellbeing of the politicians, they have now betrayed the trust of the workers,” he added.

Solomon further noted that attempts by Utusan to raise money through selling its assets have so far been unsuccessful.

“We find it very difficult to believe that story (of having no money) because they have properties with them, and they can actually sell some of the properties. Even if they can’t sell the properties, they must actually find a way to mortgage the properties,” he stressed.

Alyaa Alhadjri/Malaysiakini

“At least pay the salaries of the workers involved, because the idea of selling properties has been conveyed by the management to the union for the last one year.

“So you can’t say you have difficulties in selling the various properties in the last one year,” said Solomon, who also urged the Malay daily to revamp its editorial board as a way to restore confidence.

At the same time, he stressed that Utusan journalists should not be blamed for their current predicament as they were merely taking orders from the editorial board controlled by politicians.

Amid chants demanding for their salaries, some of the Utusan staff were heard challenging more of their colleagues, particularly the non-unionised staff at executive levels, to similarly voice their unhappiness towards the management.

The picket lasted for one hour and ended at 2pm with all working staff returning to their duties.

Utusan – Alyaa Alhadjri/Malaysiakini

Reportedly, Utusan has told employees that it does not have the financial capacity to pay salaries, said National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) Utusan branch chairperson Mohd Taufek Abdul Razak.

Taufek said the company’s inability to pay wages was conveyed to the union by Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd group executive chairman Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir at a meeting in Putrajaya today.

“The executive chairman told us that they can’t pay our salaries,” he was quoted as saying.

He also revealed that Utusan Malaysia, the country’s oldest Malay-language daily, and its sister publication Kosmo! may cease publications from this Wednesday until an undisclosed date.

“We will work until Wednesday. After that, we close. No more operations.

Alyaa Alhadjri/Malaysiakini

“There was no black and white but we (NUJ Utusan) were informed by the staff, that they were informed by their bosses,” said Taufek.

NUJ claimed earlier this month that Utusan owes salaries to 769 workers, with complaints of delays in payments and claims since January.

“Even Umno has not given any information on keeping Utusan alive because Umno also has no money,” Taufek said.

“So I’m pleading with Umno and Umno members to help us workers who have helped them in the past, and to look at our condition.”