Utusan union asks authorities to monitor paper’s liquidation

Radzi Razak

Utusan workers had been given two days to clear their desks and were put on leave until October 30. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Companies Commission (SSM) should examine Utusan Melayu Bhd’s sudden closure last week that left 862 employees jobless, said Muhammad Bashir Abu Bakar.

“In this sad and confusing situation about the employees future, we call upon MACC, SSM and other relevant agencies to monitor Utusan’s process in selling their assets and paying their debts, especially severance to their employees,” said the secretary of the paper’s National Union of Journalists branch.

On October 7, the headquarters here of Utusan Melayu that had published Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! was seized as part of its liquidation.

Remaining workers had been given two days to clear their desks and were put on leave until October 30.

The management agreed to pay the salary arrears for September and October after the last payment of arrears of salaries for July and August being deposited on October 4, while a briefing between the employees and the liquidator will be held on October 30.

Today, a delegation of Utusan NUJ representatives led by its chairman Mohd Taufek Abu Bakar, met with MPs to raise the issue.

They were hosted by Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil and Kapar MP Datuk Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid.

Abdullah Sani promised to bring the matter in the Budget debate slated this week, alleging that Utusan owners have betrayed the Collective Agreement (CA) signed by the union and the publisher — which means that there is a basis for legal actions to be taken.

“The Utusan company not only breached the CA but also Work Act 1955. It has to be reminded that you could be jailed for doing that.

“I was notified that Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary has bought and taken over Utusan. So the new and old owners should discuss the way to resolve the issue and they must make a decision that does not contradict the CA,” he said.

Abdullah Sani, who is also the former deputy president for the Malaysia Trade Union Congress, then said the employer could be charged under Section 56 of the Trade Relation Act 1967.

Meanwhile, Fahmi said the bigger matter that needs to be addressed soon is the fate of the 862 workers who have yet to receive their September and October wages, while another 800 who undertook the Voluntary Seperation Scheme earlier this year have also yet to receive their full settlement.

“So I feel that the new owner must step forward and give explanation in writing to the workers. They have to be responsible in this,” he said.

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