Thursday, 01 May 2008(Macau Daily Times)
by Sara Farr
A small group of around 20 civil servants yesterday went to the Government Headquarters to hand in a petition a day ahead of today's scheduled rallies.
Along with lawmaker and president of the Macau Civil Servants Association, Jose Pereira Coutinho, the group of men were demanding better working conditions and recognition for the dedication in carrying out the same job for the past 15 to 20 years.
Pereira Coutinho told reporters, on behalf of the men, the petition was a way of “rallying” on Labour Day, since most public servants are too scared of showing up for public rallies, in fear of losing their jobs or not having their contracts renewed.
Some 3,000 employees from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM), the Government Printing Bureau and the Health Bureau (SSM) are being disadvantaged, according to Pereira Coutinho, who added that although only 30 signed the petition, others fear retaliation if they sign or protest about work.
For the past 20 years, these 3,000 middle-aged employees have been doing the same job without being promoted, Pereira Coutinho said.
“Lower class civil servants are not happy with the way the government is trying to delay in solving their basic problems,” the lawmaker said.
“In the past 20 years, these employees haven't changed their professional level... This brings a lot of pressure to them [employees] from their families and friends, and also from society, because they are looked down on for not being promoted in the past two decades.”
Today's rally is likely to draw less crowds to the streets, compared with last year when a police officer fired five rounds into the air injuring a man on a motorcycle 300 metres away. The reason, according to Pereira Coutinho is that most permanent and non-permanent residents are “happy” with the 5,000 and 3,000 pataca subsidy the government is attributing so that they are less likely to protest.
“The truth has to be told...we're hoping that next year with a new government, the situation will be different,” he added.
Pereira Coutinho told reporters he and fellow lawmakers will collect the 5,000 pataca subsidy, but are likely to donate it to a local charity, since “this is no immediate solution for the problems society is facing.”
Although he said he wasn't sure if he will walk with ralliers today, the lawmaker said he would be at the Triangle Park, where the rally is scheduled to start, in order to support demonstrators.
Pereira Coutinho also added that if the government continues to ignore these and other front line officers, he will stage a hunger strike at the end of the year.