There is complexity inherent in simply offering another pay-out to public servants

Dear Editor,

One of the many perceivable imponderables with which the new administration would have to grapple in the more immediate future is that of public service pay, regarding which several spokespersons have raised expectations, evidently speaking not from the same page, while addressing different categories of employees. The cumulative impression gained by the wary observer is that a structured and comprehensive plan has yet to be developed to deal effectively with the several compensation regimes existing in the public service in particular, and the public sector as a whole.

Because of a policy whereby the authority to recruit (and therefore pay) devolved from the Public Service Commission to different ‘heads’ of agencies, it would not be difficult to find that, given the exponential increase in the device of contract employment, the same job could have differing values in different entities. In the process it will also be discovered that within the same entity there exist different categories of ‘contracted employees’ – ranging from those whose salaries derive from donor-funded projects, to the lowly maid and office assistant whose annual contracts must be renewed on prior application.

The standard 14 grade salary structure applicable to the established Public Service has been operational for up to three decades. The administrators, for the most part, blithely ignored jobs deriving from the new technologies and disciplines increasingly utilised over this period. As a consequence, too many new jobs have been forced into these grades, as the expertise of the Public Service Ministry required to evaluate jobs was gradually reduced – a fundamental fault line that can be only be corrected by the design and launching of a comprehensive job evaluation project, which would require no less than one year’s intensive application to effect.

The resort to contract employment can be seen as one crude device used to make adjustments to established job values, albeit on a very selective basis. This is compounded by the promiscuity in granting to the employee concerned gratuity at the rate of 22.5% at six monthly intervals, in lieu of the pension the counterpart public servant would have to wait for until he/she becomes 55 years old. (Note the simple arithmetic which suggests that in two years the contracted employee’s salary, gratuity included would have increased by 90%.) What infuriates the poorer public servant is that all concerned benefit from the annual payout which the administration initiates.

It is the effect of these annual payouts that makes a myth of the salary scales attached respectively to the aforementioned 14 job grades. The fact is that there has been no explicit evidence of persons officially benefiting from movement along the relevant scale simply because the performance appraisal system which the public services rules provide for has long been abandoned. In its place the annual payout equalises the value of the delinquent employee to that of the contribution of the high performer – a most demotivating experience to be endured.

But the story does not end there. One gross inequity which the annual payout continually imposed is that the public servant remains indefinitely at the point in the grade at which he/she entered the service. If the entry point was the minimum of the grade 10 years ago one remained exactly there 10 years after – the same as the new recruit 10 years after. This incidence of ‘bunching’ is a well-known dilemma that is screaming to be resolved.

Further disenchantment is with the disproportionate numbers of staff who have been acting in positions up to two or more grades above their substantive positions for at least a decade, in flagrant defiance of the public service rules, and with deleterious implications for their pension benefits, if their condition is not expeditiously addressed.

Someone should demand the submission of lists of all these abused public servants.

The foregoing sample of issues are amongst many others that add to the complexity inherent in merely offering another payout. Yet it bears little comparison to the institutional maltreatment of those in the teaching profession.

 

Yours faithfully,
E B John

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