KUALA LUMPUR: The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services Malaysia (Cuepacs) welcomes the Health Ministry’s reduction of housemen’s working hours, saying they had stressed on the risks involved in overworking employees.

Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda (pix) said he had recently issued a statement that more than 400,000 civil servants were suffering from psychological stress, with some even holding psychiatric cards, due to the high cost of living and work-related stress.

“I have issued a statement on stress-related matters before this. I don’t have the latest data. However, if the Health Ministry is considering the guideline in the interest of safety for housemen and their patients, why not? We welcome it,“ he told theSun when met today.

Azih said he believes the Ministry is deeply aware of the difficulties faced by housemen.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad disclosed the reduction in working hours in a brief statement sent to theSun on Sunday. He said the guideline, which will be implemented in stages, was disseminated to all government hospitals with housemanship programmes early this year.

Apart from barring housemen from working more than 14 hours without rest, their work hours will also be reduced from 65 to 75 hours per week to 60 to 62 hours a week.

Dzulkefly said the daily work hours for these newly qualified doctors would be standardised to just three flexible timings – morning, evening and night.

This rule applies only to new doctors in the nine disciplines where housemanship is compulsory.

On a separate matter, Azih also urged the government to amend the Trade Unions Act 1959 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 (Act 177).

“The amendments need to be made to raise the labour standards in Malaysia to be in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, and because the current laws were outdated and overdue for change.

“We will send a memorandum on the amendment to the Human Resource Ministry soon. If it’s needed, we will also send a memorandum to the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,“ he added.