Ban political ownership of news media, says MTUC

The Utusan Melayu premises in Kuala Lumpur. (File pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress has urged the government to outlaw political ownership of news media so that employees do not become victims or “political slaves”.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon, in a statement today about difficulties faced by staff of Utusan Malaysia group, said: “In Malaysia, we often see employees become the victims of political games. Without the involvement of political parties and politicians, the freedom and credibility of a media outlet can be increased and they will not fear publishing the truth.”

Solomon called for quick action by the Labour Department to ensure timely payment of salaries to staff of Utusan Melayu Bhd, publishers of Utusan Malaysia, Kosmo and other titles, amid a report that the April salaries had been delayed.

“Where have all the profits it earned before gone? The Utusan management must have known how many staff it had before pulling the plug on it,” he said, adding the political party which used to control Utusan cannot be allowed to “wash its hands” off the matter.

(In February, control of Utusan group passed from Umno to a private company led by former Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, who bought 31.6% of the company shares from Umno. The party’s stake in Utusan dropped from 49.77% to 18.17%.)

Solomon said delays in paying out salaries would be an offence under the Employment Act 1955, which states that salaries must be paid no later than seven days of the following month.

Earlier today, Malaysiakini reported that the last payment that staff had received was an advance on the month-end pay, capped at RM1,000 on April 26, and that staff had been informed that Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) payments would be pushed forward to a later date.

“The act of not paying VSS is also wrong in the eyes of the law as it is a breach of contract,” Solomon said, adding the Labour Department must also ensure VSS payments are made immediately as those affected do not have other sources of income and need the money to meet their monthly commitments.