By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — The newly appointed chief secretary to the government has told his charges to be loyal to the incumbent, saying they should not be fooled by the opposition’s “empty promises.”
Both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have been wooing the 1.4-million strong public service, a traditional vote bank for the ruling coalition whose support appears to have wavered over the recent wage hike debacle.
“They should know better. Don’t be taken in by empty promises,” former Public Private Partnership Unit (UKAS) director-general Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa said in reply to a question by the Umno-controlled New Straits Times on promises by the federal opposition.
“As civil servants, we must be loyal to the King and serve the government of the day. It is important that we know our role as civil servants and carry out our responsibilities well,” said the top civil servant, who was promoted this week, in an interview published by the English daily.
The government had in early March scrapped the controversial Public Service Remuneration Scheme (SBPA), a new pay scheme that had ignited anger and disapproval in the public sector ahead of a general election that must be called within a year.
Under the proposed SBPA, the chief secretary would have drawn a salary of RM60,000 while those in the “Premier Service” category were to have received RM36,000, a vast difference from those in the lower pay grades, some of whom were only given increments as low as RM1.70.
Cuepas, the umbrella labour body for civil servants, had previously demanded the government delay the SBPA after complaining that it was not consulted on the scheme.
They should know better. Don’t be taken in by empty promises. — Dr Ali Hamsa
Bowing to pressure, the prime minister said the existing Malaysian Remuneration System (SSM) would be improved in place of SBPA, a move estimated to cost the government at least RM6 billion.
Under the “improved” SSM, Najib announced that the salaries of the chief secretary to the government and top-tier civil servants in the “Premier Service I” (Turus I) category would only be adjusted by seven per cent.
Civil servants in the management and professional groups and Grades 1 to 54, in turn, would see their salaries hiked by 13 per cent across the board.
In February, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah had pointed out that under PR’s 2012 alternative budget, the coalition had promised that minimum wage would be set at RM1,100 for all civil servants should they take over Putrajaya.
She had also said that they wanted to narrow the income gap between the highest paid and lowest paid civil servant, in response to the obvious disparity in pay raise for public sector employees in the then proposed SBPA.
“Pakatan Rakyat is committed towards building a more equal pay scheme with our proposed minimum wage, besides the RM500 monthly incentive for teachers as promised in the Buku Jingga policy book,” she added.