Utusan workers stage protest over unpaid salaries, plead for help

Yiswaree Palansamy
Utusan Malaysia workers protest over unpaid salaries in front of Utusan headquarters in Kuala Lumpur August 19, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Close to 100 staff from Utusan Malaysia’s editorial department staged a protest today over unpaid salaries outside their office here.

The group, made up of journalists, graphic artists and photographers, said it was hard enough, as it is, just to stay afloat.

Mana, mana pejuang Melayu? Mana, mana Umno mana? (Where are the defenders of the Malays? Where is Umno?),” the workers chanted during their peaceful gathering.

“Even to come to work we have to borrow money.

“The papers are published every day right? That’s because of our work. Even without our salaries, we have never slacked off, “ a staff from the company, Nik Mohd Hasmazi Hassan told reporters.

He said that almost all the staff resorted to borrowing money even for basic need such as meals and pleaded that their plight is resolved quickly.

“Each of us is still trying to find other jobs but it is difficult because of our age.

“Imagine if both husband and wife opted for the VSS? How are they going to survive? Where is Utusan’s promise?” Siti Ainiza Kamsari, another staff of the beleaguered publication and senior journalist, told reporters.

Utusan Malaysia workers protest over unpaid salaries in front of Utusan headquarters in Kuala Lumpur August 19, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

VSS refers to the voluntary separation scheme. Utusan Malaysia’s management had reportedly offered the scheme to many workers of the company, but to date, has yet to pay them the promised severance sum.

The picket today started at 1pm and ended at 2pm, amid police presence.

On August 9, The Malaysian Insight quoted an unnamed source as saying that executive staff salaries had also been delayed for two months, with some receiving only RM2,000 as part of their June wages.

“Husbands and wives working in Utusan have to bring their children to the office because they cannot afford to send their kids to a nursery or babysitter. Some staff have accumulated debts over the past two months,” the source reportedly said.

Last year, staff of newspapers Utusan and Kosmo! threatened to picket following a similar wage issue, but called it off after the management came up with an amicable solution.

The source said Utusan and Kosmo! staff are giving the management until August 19 to resolve the issue, or they will proceed with the protest.

As of December 2018, approximately 800 employees have accepted the voluntary separation scheme as the company embarked on a cost-cutting measure. However, their payments were also delayed.

The Utusan Group, which publishes Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, is currently on PN17 status on the Malaysian Stock Exchange after failing to pay an outstanding debt of nearly RM1.2 million to two banks.

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