Home 2008: 6 Working their way to the grave

Working their way to the grave

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Pensioners who had served with devotion and dedication deserve to be treated better, instead of having to live just around the poverty line, says Sai N S Wigneswaran.

Pension is in fact deferred pay which the Pensioners have earned while in service.  In those years when a government employee is seconded to another Organisation or an Agency of Government that organisation pays to the employer-government an amount equivalent to sixteen percent of the wages of the employee towards superannuation.

Had the employer-government paid the sixteen per cent of the wages for all its employees and funded the amount along with the employee’s share of the contribution in the same manner as the EPF, the employee would be having to his credit a handsome amount on his retirement as security in the quiet seclusion of his declining age.

Today the employee is paid fifty percent of his last drawn salary as pension.  Even this fifty per cent is not his total earning.  Allowances such as Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), housing allowance, etc; are not taken into account for the calculation of pension.  This leaves the pensioner with a paltry sum of less than 40 per cent of what he earned on the date of retirement.

Pensions not based on full service

The cruelest cut of all is that the employee is not given pension based on the full service rendered.  As a result the government pensioner is the poorest of the poor in this country with seventy percent of them receiving a pension below the poverty line.  Their plight is further aggravated by the deduction of a substantial sum for the housing loan.  Many of them have sold the houses as the take home pension is not even enough for basic needs.

In this age of globalisation when we compare the pensions earned by public employees in Malaysia, globally our country appears to be the most under-developed poverty-plagued country on the atlas.  It is sadly a story of poverty amidst plenty.  Even island nations with little or no natural resources such as Sri Lanka and Singapore pay the government retirees one hundred per cent of the last drawn salary.  Most countries in Europe, South Korea, Japan and China pay eighty per cent of the last drawn salary as pension to its employees.

After years of procrastination a silver lining appeared to alleviate the pangs of hunger and pent up frustrations of the pensioners particularly those in the lower group who started work early in life and had put in an average of 35 years of service or more.

The Director General of Establishment issued a circular on 30 January 1996 approving among others pensions to be calculated on full service as stipulated in the original Pensions Ordinance of 1951.  The effective date was determined as 1 January 1995 and subsequently a sum of RM943 million was allocated for this.  As a bolt from the blue the pensioners suddenly woke up to a rude shock that the pension on full service had been put in cold storage but all other improvement and adjustments to the serving employees contained in the circular costing to the tune of RM2.9 billion was approved and implemented.  CUEPACS members were laughing to the bank whereas the pensioners were given a kick in the pants as reward for their loyalty and dedicated service.

Stooges betrayed pensioners

This grave injustice was perpetrated by the very same people who have today become pensioners.  Perhaps the few who connived and collaborated in this had their dowries as reward for this treachery.  Stooges may survive but will never ever be glorified in history.

At long last the employer-government has come up with an adjustment like a tranquiliser to relieve the pain but the pain still remains.

READ MORE:  Scams, fading prospects and pensioners’ plight

After thirteen years of the betrayal and painful waiting during which period a good number of pensioners had made their last journey, the Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a labour day speech on 10 May 2008 announced that instead of the full service being used for the calculation of pensions the employer-government introduced a half-hearted solution to grant an additional five years to the already existing maximum of 25 years for the calculation of pensions with effect from 1 January 2009.  The pensioners particularly those in the low income group have put in an average of 35 years of service or more and it is this group that is badly affected by the prevailing socio-economic conditions.

The plight of some of these pensioners who seek employment to supplement their pensions to keep body and soul together can be gauged from what they spoke when approached by the writer:

Pensioner – Gardener: He cuts the grass in the compound including the road side table and cleans the drains around the houses once a month because Alam Flora does not do its duty but rakes in huge profits.  He is paid RM60 each month.  He is in his seventies and has worked in JKR for 38 years.  Due to competition from foreign workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia he is only able to get to work in a few houses each month.  Looking at his frail and aged physic people are reluctant to engage him.

Pensioner – Taxi Driver: He is in his late sixties.  He had worked in Telekom for 35 years.  He drives a rented taxi which he obtained by making a down payment of RM5,000.  He had to work like a bull to pay his daily rental to the taxi permit holder whom he described as orang besar having hundreds of permits in a Sharikat (Company).  According to him the permit holder after paying the instalment for the vehicle earns about RM900 a month for doing nothing.  His income is very meager and it is difficult to sustain his family.  He had applied several times for a taxi permit and now he had given up any hope of ever getting one.  His parting words: Kerajaan tidak adil (Government not just).

Pensioner – Security Guard: He is in his early sixties and is worried that he would not be allowed to work after the age of 65.  He had worked in a hospital as an attendant for 36 years.  He stays in a rented house in Selayang and works in a high rise building basement car park in Kuala Lumpur. He has to pay for his uniforms and works long hours.  After his travelling and meal expenses he is left with a paltry sum to pay for his rental.

Pensioner – Cleaner: He works for a contractor to clean high rise buildings.  I met him in a hotel where he is cleaning the building.  He is in his sixties and works 8 to 12 hours a day.  Here too the competition is great because foreign workers are employed at low wages by the contractor and he had to put up with a lot of hardships.  Two of his children are suffering from diabetes and has to pay for the needles and glucose testing electrodes.  The insulin is given free by HUKM.  He worked as an attendant in a hospital for 38 years.

These examples are just a drop in the ocean.  There are thousands like these pensioners who are struggling in their old age to keep themselves and their loved ones alive.  They have become work- worn-worms and are working their way to the grave.  It is for these people the few extra years of service when taken into account for the calculation of pension means a lot in their declining age.

READ MORE:  Scams, fading prospects and pensioners’ plight

When the Prime Minister made the Labour Day announcement on 10 May 2008 Cuepacs must have had an insight of what is cooking but the Pensioners or their Association knew not an iota of what they were in for.  The Malaysian Pensioners Association representatives were subsequently invited for tea by the Director of Pensions and given a copy of the circular which was already available in the internet.  The limitation of the maximum period of 30 years for pension calculation and the effective date of implementation fixed for next year was a rude shock and is a kick in the pants for loyalty and dedication.

Pensioners deserve Cola

The payment of enhanced Cola and Housing allowance was also announced for serving employees.  There was no mention about Cola for pensioners.  Perhaps those in authority cynically assume that pensioners are given discounts for their purchases because their earning capacity has been reduced by sixty percent.

If there is anyone who deserve Cola it is the pensioners who have to pull their belts beyond the last notches.  The pensioners were paid Cola up to 1980.  When Cola was reintroduced to serving employees the pensioners were neglected and forgotten and Cola was denied to them.  In any case the next stop for the pensioners shall be a final full stop with the words RIP.  This is perhaps the thinking of those in authority — quicken pensioner’s haste to the grave!

Cuepacs has now proposed to the government that a flat sum of RM500 be paid as Cola to all serving employees instead of the present RM100 to RM280 paid based on the location of employment.

Cuepacs has no locus standi to represent the pensioners as the pensioners are not members of Cuepacs.  Cuepacs knows that their members are tomorrow’s pensioners why not think intelligently and ask what is reasonable for serving employees also to be paid to retirees.  Whatever is said and done the turn of events have made the pensioners and their association wiser.  If there is anyone deserving Cola it is the pensioners whose earnings have been reduced to forty percent of what they earned on the date of retirement.

Resolution adopted unanimously

At the General Meeting of the Association’s Wilayah branch held on 8 June 2008 a resolution was unanimously approved for action.  The pensioners demand that Cola be paid in the same quantum as paid to serving employees.  The time has come for the pensioners to unite and demand their rights instead of jumping into the band wagon to receive what is dished out by the employer-government and sing priases.

The National Delegates Conference of the Malaysian Pensioners Association held at Port Dickson in July 2008 having deliberated and adopted the resolution handed it to the Director of Pensions who was present at the conference by invitation for the consideration and action of the government.

Now it is the duty of every right thinking Malaysian to ensure that the men and women who had for decades rendered service with devotion and dedication to his Majesty’s Government are given their rightful dues so as to enable them to spend the remaining few years of their life in peace without having to struggle for existence till their last breadth.

This 21st Annual General Meeting of the Persatuan Pesara Kerajaan Malaysia – Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur held on Sunday, 8 June 2008 at the Hotel Dynasty, Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur:

NOTING    With appreciation the announcement that the maximum number of years of service for the calculation of Pensions has been increased from 25 to 30 years;

READ MORE:  Scams, fading prospects and pensioners’ plight

REALISING    that the accorded increase of five years which does not even measure up to  the earlier calculation of Pensions based on 33 1/3 years or 400 months is grossly unfair and inadequate in the light of the fact that most retired Government employees have to their credit an average of  35 yeas of service;

EXPRESSING    disappointment that the recent upward revision of the Pension by thirty-five (35%) percent to the Government pensioners in the lowest ebb had failed to uplift a considerable number out of the 70% per cent pensioners receiving an income below the poverty line;

EMPHASISING    that Pension is a deferred pay of the Government employees whose over all wage structure is pruned down and adjusted taking into consideration the super annuation benefits accordedx to the employees;

RECALLING    that in accordance with the Pension Ordinance, 1951 there was no service limits for the calculation of gratuity and pensions;

BEING AWARE    that with effect from 1.1.1995 a gratuity and pensions calculation scheme with out limiting the full period of service was approved by the Government and sub-sequently a sum of RM943 million was allocated for Pension adjustments as contained in a letter Ref: JPA(R) 81/16/4/Kel.16 (43) dated 30.1.1996 signed by the Ketua Pengarah, Perkhidmatan Awan Malaysia;

TREATING    that the allocated sum of RM943 million for the adjustment of pensions based on the
WITH    period of service had been surreptitiously thwarted with the connivance and
CONTEMPT    concurrence of CUEPACS, a Federation of Trade Unions which only repre sents tomorrow’s pensioners and have no locus standi to represent the Pen sioners as the Pensioners are not members of CUEPACS and the only rightful and recognised organisation to represent the Pensioners, the Persatuan Pesara Kerajaan Malaysia, has neither been consulted nor informed of this colossal betrayal;

UTTERLY    that after a long and painful waiting for more than 13 years since the approval for the
DISAPPOINTED    calculation of pensions for the full service rendered without any limit in 1995 during which period many of the heart broken Pensioners had been called to rest by the great time keeper of the universe and those remaining now are offered a pittance by adding a paltry five years of service and that too only effective from 1.1.2009;

CALLS UPON    The Government to commence immediate negotiations with the Persatuan Pesara Kerajaan Malaysia, the only registered and recognised organisation to represent the Government Pensioners in Malaysia with a view to:

    (a)    grant Pension benefits for full service rendered by the retired Government employees;
    (b)    accord back dating to 1995 the year in which Government allocated the sum of RM943 million for the adjustment of Pensions based on full period of service rendered; and
    (c)    grant payment of Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) to pensioners in the same quantum as that paid to serving Government employees.

    Proposed by:    seconded by:
    Sai N S Wigneswaran    Theresa Choong, AMN
    (M/S No. 334)    (M/S No. 333)
    15.5.08    15.5.08

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