They're all cowards: Left in the lurch, Utusan staff slam management

“They have all run away. They are all cowards – with no guts to tell us whether they will pay us compensation or our due salaries," say Taufek (right).

KUALA LUMPUR: The owners of Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd failed to face their employees and explain the situation following the decision to liquidate the company, leaving them in the lurch, says National Union Journalist (NUJ) Utusan representative Mohd Taufek Razak.

“They have all run away. They are all cowards – with no guts to tell us whether they will pay us compensation or our due salaries.

"We don’t know what our future holds for us, ” said Mohd Taufek, a journalist with the company.

He claimed that as of Wednesday (Oct 9), a total of 862 Utusan employees had been put on forced leave until October 30 by the company.

They had neither been issued a termination letter nor a job offer.

The company also owed the employees two months of salary, he added.

The retrenched workers consisted of staff from various departments, including editorial, marketing and human resources.

The newspaper’s main building on Jalan Chan Sow Lin was sealed off at 1pm Wednesday (Oct 9).

“We do not know whether to be angry or sad. We are confused.

"We have not received any termination letter, only a notice saying that we cannot enter the building after it is sealed at 1pm on Oct 9.

“The action by our employer is inhumane – without giving us compensation or proper notice on what is happening as all of this is something which was predictable.

“Today, at the briefing to us, there was not even one representative of the executives, and they left it to the editorial department and liquidator to explain to us what is happening.

"None of those at the managerial level was here.

He said the interim liquidator was kind enough to extend the period until 6pm Thursday (Oct 10) to allow the Utusan staff to clear their belongings from the building.

Many of the employees were in tears as they took their last photographs in the newspaper’s office and carried boxes of their belongings out. Many had worked there for decades.

“Despite them not paying us for months, we still worked. We love this company. This is what happens when a political party owns a newspaper – in the end, we are left in a lurch, ” said Mohd Taufek.

The newspaper's executive chairman Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir was quoted as saying that poor cash flow, mounting debts and declining sales led to its board of directors on Monday (Oct 7) approving the Creditor’s Voluntary Liquidation proposal and appointing UHY Advisory (KL) Sdn Bhd as interim liquidator.

“This step had to be taken because the board of directors were of the view that the company is no longer solvent to continue business.

“For that reason, the company will cease operations on Wednesday, Oct 9,2019, ” said Abd Aziz in a statement on Wednesday (Oct 9).

The liquidators will be holding a briefing for all workers at 3pm on Oct 30.

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