Malaysia

NUJ: Utusan chose to pay subsidiaries over union workers

By Yow Hong Chieh
May 27, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Utusan Melayu Bhd funnelled millions in profit into subsidiaries even while claiming it could not pay workers their mandatory bonus, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) revealed today.

Utusan Melayu had asserted there was no need to pay its NUJ members a contractual two-month bonus for 2009 , arguing it had lost RM26 million as an individual company that year.

Article 44 of the collective agreement between Utusan Melayu and its NUJ branch stipulates that union members must be paid a two-month bonus if the company turns a profit.

But the Industrial Court heard recently that the holding company paid out up to RM37.5 million from its operating profit to Utusan Media Sales Sdn Bhd and even gave the subsidiary’s employees a two-month bonus in 2009 despite refusing to pay NUJ members.

Utusan Melayu also did not demand payment from subsidiaries Utusan Printcorp Sdn Bhd and Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd, which owed it RM19 million and RM8.4 million respectively.

Utusan Melayu’s chief financial officer told the court that the RM76 million due from its subsidiaries as at December 31, 2009 were recorded under the item “other receivables”.

Industrial Court president Susila Sithamparam ruled today that Article 44 of the collective agreement referred to profit made by Utusan Melayu as a holding company with subsidiaries and not an individual company and ordered it to pay workers the two-month bonus.

NUJ general secretary V. Anbalagan today expressed hope that Utusan Melayu’s management would study the award carefully and make all outstanding payments owed to its employees “in the spirit of industrial harmony”.

He pointed out the Utusan Melayu’s NUJ members were some of the lowest paid among the eight branch unions affiliated to the union.

“The outstanding bonus payment will also help alleviate the financial burden of NUJ members employed in Utusan Melayu since the price of essential items has gone up,” he said in a statement today.

“Members have not enjoyed and salary hike and adjustments on other benefits since the 2008-2011 collective agreement is still pending in the Industrial Court.”

Anbalagan added that Utusan Melayu should also pay the bonus owed to workers for the year 2010, which he understood has also been withheld.