PETALING JAYA: More than 100 employees of The Star newspaper, including 50 from the editorial department, are being given termination letters this week, a move that is being condemned by unions.
They feel the newspaper, owned by a political party in the Perikatan Nasional ruling coalition which had nearly RM1 billion in assets in 2019, should look at other options besides retrenchments.
Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) president Halim Mansor said The Star should instead consider other cost-cutting options or alternative jobs for the staff, even if it means pay cuts.
“All companies have a responsibility to their staff during good times and especially during bad times. They must find a way to help the staff earn a living. Retrain and reskill them.
“When a company retrenches staff, it is taking the easy way out. The government should stop companies from retrenching staff during this period,” he said.
Halim said he was “disappointed” to hear of the retrenchments, noting that it was the staff who had built the newspaper into the established company that it is today.
“I am especially concerned about the more senior staff who will struggle to find new jobs.”
It had been previously announced that The Star would embark on a retrenchment exercise after two of its offers for voluntary separation schemes earlier this year did not meet the intended targets.
In the third quarter of this year, The Star’s parent company, Star Media Group, posted a net profit of RM26.9 million. Its revenue for the third quarter was RM48.2 million, an increase of 53% from the RM31.5 million recorded in the second quarter.
National Union of Journalists chairman Farah Marshita Abdul Fatah said they understand that these are hard times for businesses but retrenchment should be a company’s last resort.
“They should not take the easiest way out by retrenching staff. At this point, journalists have suffered enough, some endured deductions of allowance and even cutting of working hours.”
Instead of retrenchment, Farah said, the journalists should be offered leave without pay for six months to a year. Even cutting allowances was okay, she said.
“Times are hard, and as media workers, we often put our work above everything and yet we are always the first to go.”
FMT’s attempts to reach The Star chairman Fu Ah Kiow for comment were unsuccessful.