KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) is urging the government for further immediate cash flow measures for employers to relieve struggling professional services firms which are unable to tap into the recently introduced stimulus package.
Architect firms employ mainly professional and technical staff with entry-level salaries, according to a press release from PAM. It said their salary range is at or just above the RM4,000 ceiling for wage subsidies announced in the recent stimulus package.
Thus, architect firms, whether small or larger and similarly all professional services firms, are largely unable to benefit from the latest wage subsidies. The release stated that 90% of the total 1,682 architect firms employ fewer than 20 persons, making up a total workforce of over 9,000 employees.
There are as many and more jobs at stake in the remaining 10% medium-to-large firms with 20 to 350 employees where there is an estimated total of over 20,000 people employed in the architecture industry (excluding public sector). Note that SME Corp defines small firms as fewer than 30 employees or RM3mil turnover.
Due to the economic complications caused by the virus, architect firms and the building sector require immediate, impactful short-term relief measures, said PAM president Lilian Tay. PAM calls on the government to urgently implement the following short term actions and to consider mid-longer term measures as follows:
1)To release all outstanding fee payments to architects and other professional building consultants on public sector projects including state development agencies, for invoices dated on or before Feb 29, immediately or within two weeks after the end of MCO.
2) To urge or incentivise all government-linked developers and private sector developers to pay in full the outstanding fee payments to architects and other professional building consultants in the timeframe mentioned above.
3) To raise the ceiling salary of RM4,000 per month to RM6,000 per month for the three months wage subsidy entitlement. This is to apply to all employees in architect and all professional services firms registered with their respective professional boards.
4) To allow the same fixed-wage subsidy of RM1,200 per month for three months for each professionally qualified employee earning above RM6,000 per month, regardless of the size of the firm, for all registered architect firms and professional services firms registered with their respective professional boards as above.
5) To reduce the stimulus condition of six months to three months to retain all employees and for firms to be entitled to a wage subsidy. In addition, PAM urges the government to allow for right-sizing exercise after three months, not exceeding a retrenchment of 15% of the total staff for small firms below 30 employees and not exceeding 25% of the total staff for larger firms above 30 employees.
6) To allow firms to take on “sharing the burden” approaches through temporary across-the-board work hours and salary reduction measures (four-day week with 20% salary reduction and up to three-and-a-half-day week with 30% salary reduction) during and immediately following the MCO period.
7) For the government to consider one-time grant subsidy to professional firms to improve IT infrastructure to enable remote working. PAM calls for grants of RM5,000 per professional employee to subsidise the immediate purchase of additional laptops with professional design software and to upgrade cloud-based platform communication capacity.
8) For the government to waive employee EPF contributions for three months from April to June 2020 to increase take-home pay