PPM proposes MVR3,000 Ramadan bonus for state employees

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) is considering paying a sum of MVR3,000 (US$194) as a bonus for all state employees for the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The Employment Act entitles all Muslim workers in the Maldives to a sum no less than one-third of their monthly salary for the month of fasting, with a minimum of MVR2,000 (US$129) and a maximum of MVR10,000 (US$645).

The government wants to equalise Ramadan bonuses for all state employees, but the plan requires an amendment to the employment law as well as an extra funding of MVR36 million (US$2.3million).

Speaking to the press on Saturday, PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan said the current budget for Ramadan allowance stands at MVR92 million (US$5.9million)

“When we look at equalising the amount given as Ramadan allowance, we want to give at least, MVR100 per day for each employee, which amounts to a total of MVR3,000. To enforce this, we need an extra MVR36 million,” he said.

Statistics published by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) shows almost half of the country’s civil servants are paid less than MVR 4999 (US$ 324).

The parliament is on recess now and changes to the law can only be made when sittings resume in early June. The first day of Ramadan falls on June 18.

Nihan also said private businesses will be affected if the law is changed at the last minute. PPM MPs are “searching for a quick solution,” he said.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad told Haveeru today that the government has the funds to pay the proposed amount.

The government last week obtained a grant of US$20million from Saudi Arabia to manage cash flow.

Of the 24,742 civil servants in the Maldives, 9,914 are paid up to MVR4,999, while the large majority (14,380) are paid between MVR5,000 and MVR9,999 (US$ 648).

Only 373 civil servants are paid between MVR10,000 and MVR14,999 while only 75 are paid above MVR 15,000 (972).

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TAM President accuses Education Ministry of intimidation

President of the Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) Athif Abdul Hakeem has accused the government of intimidation after being summoned to the Ministry of Education following public criticism of new pay scales.

Athif told Minivan News that Permanent Secretary Dr Abdul Muhsin told him to “pay attention to public interests” while speaking publicly about the new teachers’ structure.

“I see this as an act of intimidation,” said Athif, who was told by the Mushin that the warning should not be interpreted as a threat.

In response, Muhsin said that although details of such talks are normally kept private, he denied having given a warning, noting that special regulations are in place within the civil service to formally warn employees.

“I did not give any warning to Athif,” stated Muhsin, who said that he could not comment on the new pay structure.

Athif has told local media that the pay rises promised by President Abdulla Yameen will not be realised, accusing the government of “lying to the community”.

Yameen had announced that all teachers will get a salary increment not less than one third of previous earnings.

Around 90 percent of the country’s teachers protested in September last year against poor pay and inadequate protection of teachers, prompting the government to enter negotiations as a full strike loomed.

Athif explained that the education ministry called him yesterday (January 28) to request he come to meet permanent secretary, in his capacity as TAM president.

“I told them that if I am to go as the TAM president, I can only go with my secretary,” said Athif, after which he was asked to attend in his role as the Majeediyya School’s Dhivehi teacher.

He went on to say that, during the brief meeting, Muhsin first asked whether the new teachers’ structure was displayed on the notice board of Majeediyya School.

“I told him yes. I also told him that he could have phoned the school and inquired about it rather than bringing me to the ministry,” Athif continued.

He argued that, according to the new teachers’ structure, certificate-level teachers will be paid less than the amount they were previously paid, affecting their overtime and Ramazan allowances.

TAM had tentatively welcomed the rises in salaries earlier this month, which pledged increases of between 35 and 15 percent depending on the qualifications held.

“We welcome the increases in salaries. We have some concerns, we will release a full statement after analysing the changes brought, if they satisfactorily meet our demands”, said TAM Secretary General Ali Nazim at the time.

Athif today suggested that the government wished to eliminate the layer of teachers at the certificate level from the new structure by the start of the next year but that “until the end of this year, they should not be paid lesser than what they are paid now”.

In November, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s budget review committee suggested that the government had not budgeted the required MVR532 million (US$34.5 million) needed to raise the salaries of teachers despite promises made by both President Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel.



Related to this story

President Yameen announces rise in teachers’ salaries

Teachers across Maldives take part in ‘black protest’

Education Ministry hikes teachers’ pay by 35 and 15 percent

Teachers’ Black Sunday protest prompts government talks, strike decision pending

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Almost half of civil servants earn less than MVR5,000 a month

Almost half of the country’s civil servants earn a monthly salary of less than MVR5,000 (US$324), statistics from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) have revealed.

While the number of government employees who earn up to MVR4,499 a month increased from 9,914 in May to 11,000 in September, the number of employees who earn between MVR5,000 and MVR10,000 (US$ 648) decreased from 14,380 in May to 13,580 in September.

Those earning between MVR10,000 and MVR15,000 (US$972) increased by 30 percent in September while those who earn higher than MVR15,000 rose by 96 percent.

Speaking at a three-day conference organised jointly by the CSC, Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Auditor General’s Office last week, Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim criticised civil servants for providing “poor service” to the public.

Most civil servants have poor attendance records, arrive at work late, do careless work, and take leave or holidays excessively, Nazim said, which were “unacceptable.”

Recent statistics from the CSC showed that civil servants rose from 24,742 in May to 25,010 in September – representing over seven percent of the population.

Female civil servants outnumber males, with 13,280 women and 11,730 men, while 35 percent of government workers are based in the capital Malé.

The highest number of civil servants work under the Ministry of Education (9,955), followed by the Ministry of Health (7,090) and local councils (4,454).

Nazim suggested that the “only solution” to the shortcomings of the civil service was bringing amendments to relevant laws in order to ensure employees could not take leave for four or five months a year.

Aside from pay rises and promotions, Nazim said employees could also be motivated to work better as a team, advising reforms to rules for promotions to provide incentives to civil servants.

Reviewing the organisational structure of offices could also improve efficiency, he added.

“I would like to believe that employees of the civil service can get the public’s love and respect when they work for it,” he said.

Addressing foreign participants of the conference in English, Nazim said the “key role of the civil service is to provide public service in an efficient and empathetic manner.”

With democracy in the Maldives “in its infancy,” Nazim said the country was facing “multi-faceted” and “increasingly complex” challenges and stressed the importance of reforming the civil service.

He urged participants of the conference to consider “the geographical nature of the Maldivian archipelago and the nature of service we have provided while addressing the challenges and reforming the civil service structure.”

According to the CSC, the purpose of the conference was improving the service offered to the public and focused on three main themes.

“They were organisational development and review, human resource management and development, and establishing a civil service with integrity,” the CSC explained in a press statement.

Former chairman of India’s Union Public Service Commission Professor Dev Prakash also took part in the conference, delivering  the keynote speech.

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Civil servants receive annual bonus for the first time

Civil servants have received annual bonuses after appraisal of the work conducted by individual civil servants between January 2013 and the end of January 2014.

The bonus was given to staff with attendance of over 80 percent in the defined period, with zero unexplained absences and with no disciplinary actions being taken against them.

Those who received 95 percent and above in the appraisal received a bonus equivalent to a month’s pay. Those who received between 85 and 95 percent received two thirds of their basic salary, while those between 84.9 and 75 percent received one third of their basic monthly salary.

Should any persons have issues regarding the bonuses, the Civil Service Commission has announced that complaints can be lodged during a period of one month, which ends at the end of August.

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MPs debate allowing civil servants to campaign for public office

The government has proposed revisions to the Civil Service Act that would allow civil servants to campaign for public office without resigning from their jobs.

“If these amendments are passed, our civil service employees would be able to campaign for elected posts while remaining in their jobs and have the opportunity contest elections,” explained Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Ameeth Ahmed Manik at today’s sitting of the People’s Majlis.

Presenting the legislation (Dhivehi) on behalf of the government, the MP for Raa Madduvari explained that the amendments to the 2007 law were part of a raft of bills proposed by the government to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution adopted in August 2008.

Opposition MPs have expressed concern that the changes may lead to the politicisation of the civil service, which currently employs just under 25,000 Maldivians – over 7 percent of the population.

Ameeth meanwhile noted that the Supreme Court had ruled Article 53 of the act was unconstitutional.

In September 2011, the Supreme Court backed a ruling against the prevention of civil servants’ participation in political activities.

The courts referred to Article 30(a) of the Constitution, which states, “Every citizen has the right to establish and to participate in the activities of political parties.”

The case was filed at High Court in late 2008 by Mohamed Hanim, who was demoted from his post as director general at the Ministry of Youth and Sports after he spoke at a campaign rally of the then-opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.

Ameeth noted today, however, that the revisions would establish boundaries for civil servants who wish to be active in politics.

The amendments would prohibit civil servants from using powers to directly or indirectly influence political activities as well as participating in political activity either during official working hours or in a way that casts doubt on impartiality in the performance of duties.

Additionally, civil servants would be prohibited from filling any post in a political party or submitting a form to register a political party.

The restrictions were necessary to ensure that the civil service was free of political bias and undue influence, Ameeth said.

The amendments also stipulate that political appointees, judges, employees at state-owned enterprises, soldiers, and staff at the judiciary and parliament would not be considered civil servants.

Article 77(d) of the Civil Service Act – which prohibits campaigning for public office – would meanwhile be abolished.

Despite Ameeth’s claims, however, the bill does not propose abolishing Article 51 of the act, which stipulates that civil servants must resign six months ahead of contesting an election.

Conceding that the draft legislation could have shortcomings, Ameeth appealed for MPs to offer “constructive” criticism and noted that stakeholders could be consulted at the committee stage to address concerns of civil servants.

Debate

In the ensuing debate, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim alleged that the main purpose of the bill was to “force all civil servants to join PPM.”

He further claimed that employees hired for government-owned corporations were forced to sign PPM membership forms.

MDP MP Abdulla Shahid – former speaker of parliament – contended that the amendments would return civil servants to the “enslavement” of the years before 2007, warning that it could be used to dismiss large numbers of civil servants.

Civil servants could be fired if they refuse to attend “certain rallies” or put up campaign posters, he claimed.

MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik meanwhile called on the government to set a minimum wage of MVR4,500 (US$292) a month for civil servants.

Statistics published by the Civil Service Commission in June showed an estimated 40 percent of civil servants are paid less than MVR4,999 (US$324) per month.

MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi noted that current President Abdulla Yameen – who resigned from the government and formed the People’s Alliance party in 2008 – had backed the legislation in the 16th parliament (2003-2008).

The prohibitions in the law were intended to establish a “professional civil service” and ensure “institutional memory,” she said.

Civil servants would have an undue advantage over other candidates since they could misuse their authority, she suggested.

Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan, however, insisted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom deserved “full credit” for creating an independent civil service.

The present administration also deserved gratitude and praise from civil servants for ensuring the right to participate in political activity, he added.

MP Ahmed Amir of the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – coalition partner of the ruling PPM – meanwhile suggested seeking advice from the Supreme Court when the legislation is reviewed by committee.

While the amendments prohibit civil servants from being a signatory to a request to form a political party, Amir noted that the constitution guarantees the right to form political parties to all citizens.

PPM MP Abdulla Rifau said it was “regrettable” that parliament had not amended the law in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

The PPM government would ensure that civil servants receive a pay rise when the economy improves, he added.

Rifau went on to accuse employees in the health sector of “pestering” the government with politically motivated acts of sabotage.

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State wage bill sent back to Majlis for the third time

President Abdulla Yameen has returned ‎the state wage policy bill back to the People’s Majlis for reconsideration after expressing concern over the inclusion of some public companies and parliamentary oversight.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that the inclusion of public companies with more than fifty percent shares would create difficulties as these are separate legal entities which would subsequently have an outside authority setting wages.

The other key issue related Article 18 of the bill which states that all decisions of the pay commission regarding the setting of wages and formulating wage policies must be approved by parliament.

“The president does not believe the commission would be an implementation authority if the People’s Majlis is to approve its decisions,” said Muaz, noting that it would create difficulties in implementing the Pay Commission’s decisions.

Majlis economic committee member, Kelaa MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom, told Minivan News the bill was being delayed mainly due to a conflict between the two branches of the government, arguing that the Majlis ought to have final say on pay awards as representatives of the people.

The bill which was passed on April 27 had been returned twice by the previous President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

It aims to resolve public sector pay discrepancies through the creation of a National Pay Commission and was first proposed by Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed in March 2011, and was passed by the Majlis in December 2012 and again in April 2013.

In a letter sent to the speaker of the majlis, President Yameen has requested that points noted by the government be considered.

According to Muaz, further issues emerging from the bill are that it essentially hands over the authority to decide salaries of all institutions, including president’s staff and security forces, which are currently under the executive according to the constitution and laws.

He described the parliament’s deciding upon all changes to salaries and benefits of state employees as “People’s Majlis infringing on the executive’s responsibilities”.

The constitution is clear on the parliament’s roles in allocating salaries independent institutions, continued Muaz, and the parliament’s role when it comes to the wages of other state employees – not specifically stated in the constitution – should be limited to formulating policies on the matter and holding other relevant stakeholders accountable.

President Waheed had previously told the Majlis that the requirement for parliament approval of commission decisions “dissolves the separated boundaries of, and would present difficulties in carrying out the functions of, the state – particularly in carrying out the duties of the executive”.

In response, the economic committee of the Majlis which reviewed the bill said “the best way to maintain checks and balances” is keeping the bill as it is, instead of leaving the power of determining the wages under the total control of the executive.

“People’s Majlis has the largest number of people’s representatives and should be viewed as the people. [In the bill] all the decisions are made by the [Pay] commission and it is only sent to the parliament to see if the people approve of it,” said Dr Mausoom.

When asked if the issue could take another turn with the newly elected parliament, Dr Mausoom said that he believed the new members of the parliament would make a responsible decision.

The ruling Progressive Coalition currently maintains a parliamentary majority and has won a ‘super-majority’ of two-thirds in the newly elected parliament.

The government is currently under pressure from workers over pay discrepancies and minimum wage, with both civil servants and teachers considering strike action in recent weeks.

Meanwhile President Yameen yesterday ratified five bills passed along with State wage bill at the eighth sitting of Majlis’ ‎first Session, on 27 April ‎‎2014.

The five bills which were ratified are the sole proprietorship ‎bill, business registration bill, the fourth amendment to the ‎‎Maldives Land Act,  the sexual harassment bill, and the sexual offences bill.

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MCSA calls off strike, to submit a petition instead

Maldives Civil Servants’ Association (MCSA) has called off the nationwide civil servants’ strike planned for April 20, deciding instead to submit a petition with its concerns, Vnews has reported today.

Quoting MCSA President, the report said the decision was made to prevent any difficulties it may cause to the public after consulting with senior members of the association and relevant government offices.

The petition which is being signed through social media website Facebook, is reported to have already received the signatures of fifty percent government employees.

It is expected to be submitted to the relevant offices on April 20 – the date previously set for the strike.

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Civil Servants’ Association plans strike over pay discrepancies

Maldives Civil Servants’ Association is planning to go on strike within the month, local news outlet CNM has reported.

Quoting the association’s President Mohamed Shaugee, CNM said that the strike is largely a result of discrepancies in pay among various state institutions which are disadvantageous to civil servants – particularly in comparison to independent state institutions.

“There is a huge difference in take home pay for civil servants and those working in other institutions. But Article 4 of the Employment Act and article 37 (b) of the constitution says there cannot be any discrimination,” Shaugy said.

He said that the issues have been raised for six consecutive years and that even the Civil Service Commission accepted that these issues needed to be addressed.

“I don’t want to make this political, but we still haven’t received an answer for our letter requesting to discuss this issue with President Abdulla Yameen,” Shaugee was quoted as saying.

Yesterday, a large number of teachers participated in a ‘black protest’ to bring their issues to public attention. The Maldives Teachers Association (MTA) which organised the protest after the government ignored several attempts to discuss the issues said it was just a first step in taking action.

The MTA have also threatened to go on strike over various issues in education sector – also including pay discrepancies – but has said it would only take such action as a last resort.

There are more than 25,000 civil servants in the Maldives.

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Kulhudhufushi and Fuvamulah hospital staff protest over 10 hour work day

Staffs working at Kulhudhufushi Island Hospital in Haa Dhaalu Atoll and Fuvamulah Hospital in Gnaviyani Atoll have held protests over a change in their duty roster that would require them to work overtime.

Speaking to Minivan News, Kulhudhufushi Island Council President Ibrahim Rameez said the strike ended after an hour after staff came to an understanding with the Health Ministry.

‘’At about 11:00am the island council met with the hospital management and talked to them about the issue and we came to understand that the staff went on strike regarding a change in their duty hours,’’ Rameez said. ‘’Their working hours were extended to 10 hours which was eight hours before, and the staff said they would find it difficult to work 10 hours.’’

He said the staffs stopped the strike and went back to work after the Health Ministry promised to amend the change brought to the working hours.

Manager of Kulhudhufishi Hospital Mohamed Hassan said the staff stopped the strike when the Health Ministry changed the duty roster in accordance with staff wishes.

‘’They went on strike regarding a change that was supposed to be implemented on July 1 but was delayed due to Ramazan,’’ he said. ‘’The staff, especially the nurses working at the hospital, said they find it very difficult to work according to the new roster.’’

Fuvamulah Hospital Manager Mohamed Ismail said seven staff at Fuvamulak Hospital and a few Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists protested outside the island council following the change in the duty roster.

‘’I wasn’t formally or informally notified about their concerns,’’ he said. ‘’I went to the area and saw the staff and MDP activists waiting outside the council secretariat.’’

Ishmail said the MDP activists had tried to portray the matter as a big protest for the sake of media attention, and accused local media of misleading the public.

‘’The issue had been already resolved when they went on strike. Everything is fine now,’’ he said.

Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry Geela Ali had not responded to Minivan News at time of press.

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