The frontliners who were forgotten by Budget 2021

The Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan (JPKK) (or Government Contract Worker s’ Network) and Hospital cleaners union (Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Swasta Perkhidmatan Sokongan Di Hospital-Hospital Kerajaan Semenanjung Malaysia) disapproves of the Budget 2021 tabled in the Parliament on 6 November 2020 by the Federal Government of Malaysia for excluding the forgotten frontliners who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Federal Government of Malaysia to include all personnel who were in the front line of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic to be included in the Budget 2021 immediately, regardless of their class, occupation, worth, or origin.

The hospital cleaners, school security personnel, and gardeners who risk their lives every day in the front line fighting the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic were excluded from Budget 2021 due to their employment contract system. They were not regarded as frontliners by the Government of Malaysia because they were hired by third parties to assist the support in Government premises, therefore they were not qualified to be protected with the COVID-19 Special Allowance of RM600 per month (until the pandemic is successfully addressed) and a one-off payment of RM500 in appreciation of the contribution by the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s frontliners.

During his Budget 2021 speech in the Parliament, the Minister of Finance, YB Senator Tengku Dato’ Sir Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz mentioned, “the Government values the toil and sacrifices of the frontliners in managing this COVID-19 pandemic.” However, the exclusion of these forgotten frontliners from Budget 2021 is contradicting to his speech and also the first core values of the federal government’s Budget 2021 which is to protect the Rakyat’s wellbeing.

Apart from that, our forgotten heroes were exposed to the risk of COVID-19 transmission every day due to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks, face shields, gloves, etc. when they are working in hospitals and schools. By providing PPE to hospital cleaners, school security personnel, and gardeners we also help to prevent COVID-19 spreading to their family member and others people, which could help in flatten the curve. The government of Malaysia allocated a total of RM318 million for the purchase of PPEs in Budget 2021, however, the health of these hospital cleaners, school security personnel, and gardeners are not under the purview of the federal government. The reason is simple: they are not civil servants but contract workers hired by third parties. Their PPEs falls under the responsibility of their contract companies. Hence, cost-cutting measures may not be avoided for a business, whereas a government could focus on the social cost for its people without adhering to the nature of profit and loss of a business.

According to our report, the problems of privatization of the support system for government premises include late payment in wages, unfair dismissal, wage stagnation, etc. Privatization did not solve the issue of cost-saving for the government expenditure but it shifted the problems to social costs such as health hazards and workplace disputes which require more resources from the government. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates these problems when our forgotten heroes were not protected.

JPKK is committed to the reinstatement of all the contract workers in government premises to be part of the civil servants before June 2021. As Geoge Orwell said, “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men and women stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” We are not too late to put these “rough men” and forgotten heroes back into the chapter of our history books for our children to read about the days when we defeat the COVID-19 pandemic!

We urge the government of Malaysia, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Finance Minister of Malaysia, the Education Minister of Malaysia, and the Human Resources Minister to include all personnel who were in the front line of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic to be included in the Budget 2021 immediately, regardless of their class, occupation, net worth or origin.

  1. Jaringan Pekerja Kontrak Kerajaan (JPKK)
  2. Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Swasta Perkhidmatan Sokongan Di Hospital-Hospital Kerajaan Semenanjung Malaysia
    Contact Person: Wing Hoong (+60 11 5636 8136)

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