THE Zoo Negara management is again seeking donations, this time citing the ongoing movement control order (MCO) as reason behind a drastic drop in gate collections and public donation is needed for the upkeep of the animals.
It appears to be a norm for the management to periodically appeal to the generosity of Malaysians to save the national zoo, without fixing underlying issues plaguing the management and board of directors, including allegations of financial improprieties.
What is especially puzzling to MTUC is that various reports lodged against the management of Zoo Negara have fallen on deaf ears. Their supposed indifference has indirectly worsen the plight of the zoo workers who continue to be victimised by their employers.
Last July, former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Latheefa Koya assured that the anti-graft body would probe into allegations of financial abuses and mismanagement in Zoo Negara. Sadly, there has not been a single update on the progress of the investigations, if any.
To date, the Zoo Negara has yet to account for its failure to build quarters for its employees despite receiving RM1.6 million government allocation for the purpose in 2001.
MTUC took the issue up with the Zoo Negara management and the Human Resources Ministry has referred to the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry in 2018.
We have written to the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry under the then Pakatan Harapan government which gave assurances that the issue would be resolved but no concrete nor transparent action was ever taken.
Meanwhile, scores of workers at the zoo continue to be undermined by the management.
Until today, the management has refused to pay the workers their entitlements involving salary adjustments and arrears as well accrued bonuses as ordered by the Industrial Court on October 10.
The case was referred to the Industrial Court after the zoo had persistently rejected key articles on wage hikes and other remuneration in its collective agreement (CA) negotiations with the workers.
Despite the Industrial Court award on the key articles, the Zoo Negara management proceeded to delay the finalisation of the CA and gave various bureaucratic excuses to avoid making any payments to the workers.
To further frustrate the workers, the management refused to even prepare the agreed articles of the CA that was not part of the court’s award.
Instead, the Zoo Negara management made a bizarre demand that the union themselves draft the articles, knowing fully well the union with only 50 members had limited resources to draft such documents, thus further delaying the implementation of the CA.
The unethical and thuggery-like conduct of the Zoo Negara management in deliberately delaying payment to the workers as directed by the Industrial Court is unacceptable and a clear defiance of Malaysian labour laws.
The Zoo Negara union members who have fallen victims to such underhand tactics are general workers earning meagre salaries. Despite 20 years in service, some of them are merely earning about only RM2,000 a month, a sum grossly inadequate to run a household in Kuala Lumpur.
As these workers along with their families suffer in abject poverty and denied their basic rights, some of Zoo Negara’s directors and senior staff are reported to frequently travel to neighbouring countries and their affluent lifestyle is an open secret.
If the Zoo Negara management is not able to look after the well-being of its own workers, how can we hope that the animals in the Zoo are well taken care.
MTUC has no objections and welcomes anyone donating to the well-being of the animals and to upkeep the Zoo Negara.
However, MTUC appeals to the authorities to ensure to manage the funds received in the form of donations and such funds are expended for the intended purposes.
It will be disheartening for the donors to become aware later that the funds are abused and not expended for the intended purposes.
There must also be a vigorous investigations into the management failure to use the RM1.6 million allocation it received in 2001 to build quarters as promised to the zoo workers.
Only when such accountability and transparency is in place MTUC will be comfortable that funds sourced will reach its target to upkeep the animals in Zoo Negara and to improve the welfare of its workers. – April 2, 2020.
* J. Solomon is MTUC secretary-general.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
Source : https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/234223