‘Modern Slavery’? Almost 10,000 Demand Higher Wages For Junior Doctors

The salary differential between UD41 contract medical officers and UD44 permanent medical officers is almost RM8,000 annually.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 – Over 9,200 people have signed an online petition to demand fair wages and equal opportunity in postgraduate training for contract medical officers (MOs).

The petition, started by Nur Azizah ‘Aisha AliAhmad, pointed out that as contract MOs were maintained on the UD41 civil service grade during their two-year mandatory service with the government, these junior doctors suffered a basic salary differential of RM664 monthly compared to their higher-paid UD44 permanent counterparts, which equalled RM7,968 a year, excluding yearly increments. UD41 housemen also enjoy an RM600 flexi allowance that contract MOs do not receive.

“The workload as a contract Medical Officer with grade UD41 is no different from their colleagues on the permanent UD44 schemes. So, where is the fairness in this?” Nur Azizah said.

“Is this just another form of cheap labour, or some call it modern slavery?”

Her petition is intended for the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Public Service Department (JPA), the Ministry of Education (MOE) as well as Malaysians in general.

Started yesterday with a target of 10,000 signatures, the petition had already garnered 9,214 signatures by 11.20am today.

“In June 2019, the first cohort of contract Medical Officers (MO) were appointed, amounting about 50+ junior doctors. The other 450+ of the first batch were finally absorbed as permanent, after a six months’ wait as floating MOs. No prior hints were given and no transparency of the method of selection was announced by the MOH of Malaysia,” Nur Azizah said in the petition.

“In total, the amount of MOs being forced into the contract scheme is currently more than 500.

“Not only that, the newly appointed contract MOs were not given any pay raise nor grade progression in the civil servants’ scheme. They ought to remain in the grade of UD41 for the next two years, as opposed to their permanent counterparts,” she added.

Nur Azizah also expressed disappointment about the unfair opportunity for these doctors to receive postgraduate training in public universities.

“These programmes have strict entrance eligibilities and that includes a permanent employment status and three years of experience in the field applied. This is viewed as unfair and discriminatory. The Ministry has proposed an alternative/parallel pathways for post-graduate training, but this does not apply across all the speciality trainings such as the surgical-based programmes.

“In addition, there is no job security after the two years’ contract ends. There was no proper guidelines announced for criteria of permanent employment after these MOs have completed their compulsory service. This is again, very vague to these young budding doctors,” she said.

Nur Azizah via the petition demanded MOH, JPA and MOE to reconsider the contract scheme, and requested the public to join the petition as well.

Last Friday, Dzulkefly repeated his previous statements in Parliament that MOH could no longer guarantee permanent employment to MOs, who may be reappointed on contract to serve the government for a mandatory two years instead. These junior doctors were told that after their compulsory service with MOH, they could seek jobs in public university hospitals or in the private sector.

MOH also confirmed last week that all contract MOs would continue their two-year mandatory service on housemen’s UD41 civil service grade, instead of being promoted like their permanent counterparts to UD44. Almost half of the first two batches of contract housemen from the December 2016 and February 2017 cohorts, or 461 people, were reappointed as contract medical officers from December 2019 to December 2021.

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