Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik has urged the government to provide a special grant to school canteen operators and workers as they are struggling economically amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former education minister said school closures over the past two years, as well as the low school attendance when they reopened, have significantly impacted school canteen operators.
They are also making losses due to the stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) which require the operators to hire extra employees to deliver the food to the students in class, among others.
All of this increases their operating costs as they need to pay more for the extra workers and food containers.
Maszlee said the operators also claim they only receive business from a small portion of students who attend school.
“Besides that, the cost of raw materials has increased, which has also added to their burden.
“They are not allowed to increase food prices because they are beholden to the agreement made before the movement control order (MCO), without taking into account the increase of the prices of goods currently,” Maszlee said in a statement today.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that the Association of School Canteen Operators (PPKSM) Hamzah Omar called on the government for another six-month exemption of rental payments and allocations for the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) to be increased.
It contended that school canteen operators needed the assistance as they had suffered a severe loss of income over the past two years when schools were mostly closed.
Hamzah said his members could barely afford to restart operations, let alone pay rent.
High cost, low profit
Maszlee also urged the government to review the allocations given for the RMT as the operators have said the RM2.50 allocation per student is no longer relevant.
For example, he said, the operators were told to provide milk under RMT at RM1.50 each, but the cost price of milk is already between RM1.20 and RM1.50.
“Hence the earnings they get from providing the milk is not a lot and sometimes they make losses if the milk spoils.”
He added that the operators have tried reaching out to Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin to take a look at their situation but to no avail.
As such, he called for a special grant to be given to the operators to help them restart their business when schools reopen.
The special aid for canteen workers is also necessary as many of them are unable to apply for existing employee wage schemes.
He also asked for the RMT allocations to be increased from RM2.50 to RM4.
“Finally, I urge for the Education Ministry to immediately hold engagement sessions and discuss with the School Canteen Operators Association to listen to their demands in order to solve this problem,” Maszlee added.