KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 — The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) criticised Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad’s voluntary separation scheme (VSS) today as a dishonest, insincere and suspicious move.
The VSS offer to 800 out of the Umno-controlled media company’s 1,500 staff had fewer benefits than retrenchment, according to the union’s collective agreement.
“As the first scheme, it should have been better. It would be better for our members to wait to be retrenched rather than accept the VSS offer,” NUJ said in a statement.
“The company’s ability to pay the VSS is surely suspicious because they promised a month’s pay x number of years in service without funds at hand.
“This means Utusan doesn’t have money and is still looking for it even while making the offer, without showing clear evidence on how they will obtain it,” added the union.
NUJ also claimed it was only informed about the VSS an hour before it was announced to Utusan Melayu staff yesterday.
The union said the condition under the VSS offer of making payments through monthly installments for a year, instead of a lump sum, violated customary VSS practice.
NUJ urged Umno, as the biggest shareholder, to review the decision made by executive chairman Datuk Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, saying: “What’s the use of Umno proclaiming its defence of the interests of Malays when it can’t even protect Malay workers at its own company?”
Business paper The Edge reported yesterday that the VSS measure applied to Utusan Melayu’s four key newspapers — Utusan Malaysia, Mingguan Malaysia, Kosmo! And Kosmo! Ahad — and its top four magazines, Mastika, Saji, Infiniti and Wanita.