Leadership must set the example of professionalism to the public service

Dear Editor,

The Public Service Commission of Inquiry has submitted its report to President David Granger. This report is awaited with much anticipation, given its Terms of Reference (ToR), and the Granger/Nagamootoo administration’s repeated statements of commitment to a professional public service and respect for the right to collective bargaining.

It is hoped that this report will be made public shortly to allow the trade unions, public servants, and other stakeholders the opportunity to examine and analyse same. This will not only present an opportunity for reading the contents and reviewing the feasibility of what is set out, but also confirming whether the ToR was addressed, and to what extent.

A professional public service is important for the nation’s development given that it is the primary medium for conducting the government, state and people’s business. From reading the President’s statement on receiving the report he reinforced his position about desiring a professional service, and took the opportunity to address those he considers lazy public servants, who were put on notice by him that they would attract “lazy person’s remuneration.”

This particular issue can be addressed from several standpoints. One, where it can be said that what goes for the rank and file public servants should also be applied to members of the cabinet and the National Assembly, who received pay increases without performance evaluation, and where presently some are under-performing by the standard of the people, who are their employers.  Another view contends that the President’s comment as Chief Public Servant can stymie the professionalism desired in the public service.

The 2015 administration inherited a public sector whose workers were insulted, battered, demoralised, abused and denied by Chief Public Servants Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar. The continued approach to labelling these workers will not bring professionalism to the service. It is important for leadership to set the example of professionalism.

Remuneration in the public sector has to be addressed in the following manner:

  1. The wage/salary scales make provision for minimum, midpoint rate for the job, and maximum. Those who fall within the minimum and midpoint are on the learner curve. Providing they display the ability to learn they are entitled to an increment. Within the midpoint and maximum range such workers are expected to perform at the level of good and beyond to receive a merit increment.

Increments are usually done through performance appraisals. These appraisals while compiled at the end of a specific period can only reflect the performance of the individual as guided by the supervisor. In fact, the supervisor cannot await the end of the appraised period to inform the supervised that performance fell below expectation.

Appraisal is a day-to-day process and if someone falls short that person should be informed immediately and systems put in place for corrective action, which include continuous evaluation and appraisal.

  1. Collective bargaining addresses an array of issues, inclusive of wages/salary increases consistent with pegging same based on the performance of the economy or institution, real wages and inflation. These factors have nothing to do with the issue of merit increments. Merit increments are given based on the individual worker’s performance.

iii. Education in the public sector is not only tied to certification. Certification allows for entry to a particular job and promotion in some respects. Training, which enhances the skills and competencies of the worker, is necessary for the quality of service delivery and is the responsibility of the employer to ensure this if such an interest exists. This is a primary reason why training was considered important in the public service and there were institutions that facilitated same with the government support.

  1. The public service caters for workers from all levels, ie, from the cleaner to the permanent secretary. These workers require varying levels of education, certification, competence, and ability.

It is therefore expected that any action taken towards workers be consistent with universally established principles, conventions, and agreement between the unions and employers. In this process efforts ought to be made towards delivering a professional public service absent emotion.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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