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THERE is no guarantee that civil servants will still vote for the government in the coming polls despite the assurance given by Umno president Najib Razak to his division chiefs that civil servants are returning to Barisan Nasional, trade union leaders have said.

The rising cost of living has apparently outstripped much of the goodwill brought on by previous policies, even last July’s minimum wage increase.

“We don’t want a wealthy life. We want our welfare taken seriously by the government,” said Zainal Ismail, deputy president of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service (Cuepacs).

“In 10 years, the price of fish and vegetables, and other costs have gone up almost 80%. Although we received RM2,000, we cannot afford a house due to this higher cost of living.”

Najib told Umno division chiefs last night that a majority of the 1.6 million civil servants were returning to support the BN government in a hastily called meeting of his Umno warloads in Putrajaya last night.

Najib also said he had received a briefing on the civil servants’ growing support at a meeting at a retreat centre in Janda Baik, Pahang, two weekends ago, The Malaysian Insight reported.

“We cannot deny we have received a lot of benefits – especially the minimum wage, additional housing allowance and annual increments – but they’re not enough. We don’t want a wealthy life, but the living and housing allowances, as well as the wage levels have to match the living costs.

Effective July 1 last year, civil servants earned a minimum monthly wage of RM1,200, compared to RM837 previously. Combined with existing allowances, employees in this grade can see a take-home pay of about RM1,500 or more.

“We now give more than 100% in work performance. We have proven ourselves to the government. We want them to look after the civil service. We will always be supportive of the government if they can do this,” Zainal said.

Andrew Lo, Sarawak secretary of Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said civil servants were not as comfortably well off as people might think.

“Nobody is able to cope. In fact, while you normally hear people talk about low-income earners suffering, but the economic situation is such that the middle-income group is struggling the most. And the middle-class includes civil servants,” he said.

Lo said the middle-class was the most affected by rising costs: “From the top, they have to pay more taxes, which now includes the goods and services tax (GST). And from the bottom, they do not get any of the government assistance.

“The cost of living in this group has increased more than for those at the top. They have car loans, housing loans etc, but the cost of employment, going to and from work. It’s all gone up substantially,” he said, adding that these costs id not include tuition fees for children, college and so on.

“If you are animals in a zoo, you have to vote for the zookeeper. There is an alternative, but the reality of the situation is, many of them do not know that daily problems stem from the leadership,” Lo said about whether civil servants should feel indebted to the government.

“Najib is the main problem. His guilt is not the issue, but because of the 1MDB scandal, the ringgit has dropped, and a weak ringgit has directly caused costs to increase,” Lo said.

Meanwhile, BowerGroupAsia analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani said many civil servants are “heavily in debt” and are struggling with the increasing cost of living.

Asrul Hadi added that although civil servants may be aware of the scale of the 1MDB scandal, that might not translate into votes for the opposition.

“You also to have to remember, why should a civil servant vote for the opposition when they have been harping for years on wanting to cut what they call a bloated civil service.”

Asrul Hadi does not believe Bersatu chairman and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would be a factor in attracting voters among the civil servants.

“Perhaps only among the retired ones, as there is still a sense of loyalty to the former prime minister,” he said. – July 20, 2017.

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