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LETTER | The frontliners who were forgotten from Budget 2021

"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."

- Commonly attributed to George Orwell

LETTER | The Government Contract Workers' Network and Hospital Cleaners Union disapproves of Budget 2021 which was tabled in Parliament on Nov 6 by the federal government because it excluded the forgotten frontliners who are fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

We urge the government to include all frontliners in Budget 2021 immediately, regardless of class, occupation, or origin. Hospital cleaners, school security personnel, and gardeners, and more risk their lives every day on the frontlines. They have been excluded from Budget 2021 due to their employment contract system.

They are not regarded as frontliners by the government because they were hired by third parties to work on government premises. Therefore, they are not qualified to be protected with the Covid-19 Special Allowance of RM600 per month (until the pandemic is successfully addressed) and the one-off RM500 payment in appreciation of the Health Ministry's frontliners.

During his Budget 2021 speech in Parliament, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said, "the government values the sacrifices of the frontliners in managing this Covid-19 pandemic."

However, the exclusion of these forgotten frontliners from the budget contradicts his speech and also the first core value of Budget 2021 which is to protect the rakyat's wellbeing.

Apart from that, our forgotten heroes are 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, and gloves when they are working in hospitals and schools.

By providing PPE to hospital cleaners, school security personnel, and gardeners, the government will be helping to stop Covid-19 from spreading to their family members and other people, which could help in flattening the curve.

The government has allocated RM318 million for the purchase of PPE 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 part of the civil servants but contract workers hired by the third parties.

Their PPEs fall under the responsibility of their contract companies. Hence, cost-cutting measures cannot be avoided for a business, whereas a government can better focus on taking care of its people without adhering to the "profit vs loss" nature of a business.

The problems of privatisation of the support system for government premises include late payment of wages, unfair dismissals, stagnant wages, and more. Privatisation has not solved the issue of cost-saving for the government but instead, it has shifted the issue to become a social cost, such as health hazards and workplace disputes which drain more resources from the government.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates those problems when these forgotten heroes are not protected.

The Government Contract Workers' Network is committed to reinstating all contract workers in government premises to becoming civil servants before June 2021. It is not too late to put these "rough men" and forgotten heroes into the chapters of our history books where our children can one day read of the days when we finally defeat the Covid-19 pandemic!

We call upon the government, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, Education Minister Radzi Jidin, and Human Resources Minister M Saravanan:

All personnel who are on the frontlines of the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic should be included in Budget 2021 immediately, regardless of their 

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, or origin.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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