The Fifth Column

9th March 1996

It's a case of give and take

The story of the week was the strike by doctors who are claiming their salary increase was, in fact, a reduction of their take home pay. But this is how it all began.....

''I say, B.C., I need your help.....''

''Yes, Prof, my pleasure. What can I do for you?....''

''You know, Madam wants us to be more popular....''

''I thought you were already popular, Prof.....''

''Yes, of course, but she wants us to be even more popular.....''

''So that even the people of Mahiyanganaya will vote for her....."

''Yes, perhaps even that.....''

''But, Prof., what can I do to help?''

''B.C., she wants you to give government employees a salary increase.....''

''That can't be, Prof. She herself told the people not so long ago not to expect a salary increase for the next couple of years.....''

''She's not a fool, B.C., she remembers that. But a lady is entitled to change her mind.....''

''But we don't have enough money to pay even the present salaries, leave alone a salary increase.....''

''I know that, B.C. .....''

''Then, Prof., how do you propose to increase salaries?''

''Now, look, B.C., in most of these salaries, the actual salary is small. It is the allowances that add up.''

''Yes, Prof., I agree. That is so in most categories of government employees, say, for example the doctors.....''

"So, the rest is simple. We increase the salary and take away the allowances. That way, what we actually pay them is less than before. And, because the ''salary'' is higher, the deductions for taxes and EPF is also higher. We save money there also.....''

''Prof., you are a genius.....''

''No. B.C., I am a politician.....''

''But, Prof., what if they strike?"

"Who will strike when a salary increase is announced, B.C.?

''When they.... get to know that it is actually a reduction in the salary, Prof., they might strike. Specially the doctors, Prof., they are a tough lot.....''

''Fowzie will handle the doctors. B.C., don't worry about them.....''

''If you say so, Prof.....''

"And remember, B.C., you must also actually increase the salaries of a few, so we can always point out, those, when someone questions us.....''

''And who should they be, Prof.?"

"Just a few people whom we need, B.C., like judges.....''

"But, Prof., aren't doctors, for example, as important as judges, if not more important?''

''At Satellite's age, B.C., she needs judges more than she needs doctors.....''

''If you say so, Prof.....''

''And, B.C., just in case the doctors want to strike on this issue, let me know in advance.....''

''Why, Prof.....? Will you then reverse the decisions?"

"No, No, B.C., we will then get Satellite to appoint a Committee comprising of, for example, the three ''Lucky's as the Cabinet and settle the issue.....''

''Who's that, Prof?''

"Why, Lakshman K, Lakshman J and myself, of course, Lakshman.''

''And what will the three of you do?"

''We will give them only what we want to give, just to prove that we may all be 'Lucky', but the doctors will not be so lucky....''

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