The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Malaysian affiliate, the National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM), have expressed deep regret at the closure of the publications, which the company say came after years of financial losses and have called on the company to comply with the law and fully pay the workers’ legal redundancy entitlements.
In a memo sent to staff, the executive chairman Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, said that the management board of Utusan Group agreed on Monday 7 October to liquidate the company due to its inability to pay workers’ wages and the company’s debts. The board also asked the employees to stop working and leave the company's building by 1 pm and to give back their press cards and access keys.
The workers' contract will officially end on October 31. A meeting between the management and all employees has been scheduled on October 30.
For decades, the Utusan Group has been the official mouthpiece of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party that has ruled Malaysia since the independence process in 1957. UMNO used to have direct control of Utusan until it sold the company’s shares in February 2019. UMNO, which led the Barisan National coalition, lost power in the last general elections after more than 60 years in government.
In a press conference held shortly after the communication was sent, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) representative at Utusan Group, Mohd Taufek Razak, said the top managers were “cowards” because they refused to talk directly to the workers and explain the situation.
“The management attitude has been inhumane. They took a too short time to tell us we will lose our job. This was a predictable situation, and until now, no representative of the executive board has come to explain to us what was going on,” Taufek Razak said during the press conference.
The NUJM said: “The closure of Utusan is a dark mark in Malaysian history because Malaysian society has lost a voice and news source. The fate of 800 media workers and staff who are losing their job overnight is not a small number to be taken nonchalantly. The NUJM is committed to defend its members’ rights and to ensure they receive the redundancy payment they deserve”.
The IFJ said: “We express our solidarity to all Utusan workers. We condemn the company’s attitude in only informing them about the job losses with virtually no notice, through a memo and without contacting with the union representatives. We call on Utusan Group to ensure all salaries and compensations are fully paid.”