KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Medical groups have questioned if reductions of civil servants’ allowances will affect health care workers who do not directly handle Covid-19 patients.
A federal directive, announced by Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali on June 1, stipulates that all civil servants — with the exception of “frontliners” and public servants from Grades 1 to 28 — will contribute a portion of their fixed entertainment allowance (ITK) and fixed public service allowance (ITKA) into a trust fund account to counter Covid-19.
His statement, however, did not clearly specify who is considered a “frontliner”. The term is often loosely used and carries varied meanings, referring not only to personnel in the health sector, but in defence and economic sectors as well.
Dr Vijay Ganasan, who is chairman of the Malaysian Medical Association’s Section Concerning House Officers and Medical Officers (SCHOMOS), said the extent of the pay cut is unclear due to the lack of clarity on the term as well as the decision-making process involved.
“In view of the lack of clarity, we don’t know how this will affect us. Hence, the definition on who gets the cut and who doesn’t is still a limbo until we see our pay slip,” he told CodeBlue when contacted.
He further described the pay cut announcement as a “shock” for many in the medical fraternity as no notice was issued prior to the chief secretary’s statement.
Malaysian Dental Association president Dr Leong Kei Joe also admitted that not much is known about the details of the government’s plan at the moment. “Things are preliminary now, we need to know what their (government’s) definition of frontlines is.”
Amrahi Buang, president of pharmacists’ group Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, said the term “frontliner” should be inclusive of all health care workers.
“Even if these workers are not dealing directly with Covid-19 patients, what they are doing is equally important. For example, some of the workforce in pharmaceuticals are involved in vaccine supply and these are doing back-end work. There are also enforcement officers who work at entry points — are they not frontliners?
“To me, if the government wants to reward ‘frontliners’, they have to reward the whole team because all of us need to work together. The government should look at it in totality,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has not responded to CodeBlue’s request for clarification on the matter at the time of writing.
Checks conducted by CodeBlue on individual government health workers revealed that a Grade 52 pharmacy officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has yet to be notified of any allowance cut.
“I’m not quite sure if we (at management) are considered as frontline workers as we do not deal directly with Covid-19 patients, though we are part of the Health Ministry. We have not received any notice or letter on any allowance cuts for the time being,” she said.
If applicable, her ITK would see a five per cent reduction, or RM30 per month, from the RM600 she is entitled to monthly. While she viewed the contribution amount as modest, she noted that no prior consultation was made on the deduction.
“Like everyone else, we found out about it via Facebook yesterday,” she told CodeBlue last Wednesday.
A Grade U32 maternity ward nurse at a public hospital in the Klang Valley said she is not subjected to the cut, though there has been no official notice issued to support her assertion. The nurse said part of her duties include being in charge of pregnant Covid-19 patients.
Mohd Zuki, in his June 1 statement, announced that civil servants will contribute a portion of their ITK and ITKA to a Disaster Trust Fund account. He did not specify what exactly the money in the fund would be used for.
The rate for ITK deduction for public sector key position (JUSA) A and above is set at 50 per cent, JUSA B at 20 per cent and JUSA C (10 per cent).
Civil servants from Grades 44 to 56 will be subjected to a five per cent ITK cut, while those from Grades 29 to 41 will see their ITKA allowance reduced by RM10. The allowance cuts will take effect on a monthly basis over a three-month period. The effective date will be announced soon.
According to the Accountant General Department of Malaysia, the ITK for JUSA C to JUSA A ranges from RM2,150 to RM4,000 per month. This translates to a monthly cut of RM215 to RM2,000, depending on the category. Higher-ranking officials, leading up to the chief secretary, will see cuts of up to RM2,650 per month, in line with their steep monthly ITK of up to RM5,300.
The ITK for management and professional groups from Grades 43 to 54 ranges from RM400 to RM800 per month, which equates to a monthly reduction of RM20 to RM40 respectively. The ITKA for Grades 29 to 41 professionals ranges from RM160 to RM300 monthly.
Mohd Zuki said contributions from over 800,000 civil servants, not inclusive of frontline personnel and public servants from grades one to 28, are estimated to be worth more than RM30 million.
On May 31, the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) president Adnan Mat said the congress had proposed for each civil servant from grade 54 and below to contribute RM10 to the fund to help curb the pandemic.
He said the contribution could be made through a salary cut, though it should not apply to frontline workers from the health, security, defence and enforcement sectors involved in preventing the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Adnan later said the initiative was welcomed by all civil servants as a manifestation of solidarity in supporting the government’s effort to flatten the Covid-19 infection curve.