How were 4,000 ‘con­tracted em­ploy­ees’ tran­si­tioned into reg­u­lar pub­lic ser­vice and what about de-bunch­ing?

Stabroek News - - LETTERS -

There is the clear in­di­ca­tion of cen­sure in the me­dia of a Gov­ern­ment ‘uni­lat­eral’ of­fer of in­crease in ‘salaries’ (rather than wages) of pub­lic ser­vants. The fact is, how­ever, that uni­lat­eral ‘salary in­creases’ have con­tin­u­ally been made at least as far back as 2000, ex­cept with­out the taint, if you will, of any ne­go­ti­a­tion. It is in the ab­sence of faith in the lat­ter process over the past two decades, that all ad­min­is­tra­tions would very likely be crit­i­cised by coun­ter­part regimes in the Re­gion, and in­deed by re­lated in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tor­ing agen­cies.

One does not read­ily re­call any fo­cused com­par­i­son be­tween the struc­ture of the Guyana Pub­lic Ser­vice (which has pre­vailed in this cen­tury) and those of our Cari­com col­leagues.

Chances are, how­ever, he/she would dis­cover that the preva­lence of ‘Con­tracted Em­ploy­ees’ (not ‘Con­tract Work­ers’) is a clas­si­fi­ca­tion not for­mally re­peated else­where.

In­deed, to the dis­may of many – in­clud­ing that of tra­di­tional pub­lic ser­vice col­leagues – their mem­bers have in­creased ex­po­nen­tially over the years.

In­ci­den­tally, the fol­low­ing are the other five (tra­di­tional) job clas­si­fi­ca­tions which have re­mained stead­fast in the Pub­lic Ser­vice since the 1980s: i) Ad­min­is­tra­tive ii) Se­nior Tech­ni­cal iii) Other Tech­ni­cal and Craft Skilled iv) Cler­i­cal and Of­fice Sup­port v) Semi-Skilled Op­er­a­tive and Un­skilled The cur­rent Na­tional Es­ti­mates, like its an­nual pre­de­ces­sors, shows ‘Con­tracted Em­ploy­ees’ as the sixth clas­si­fi­ca­tion in every sin­gle agency.

So that the dili­gent ob­server is left to pon­der when, and how in one fell swoop, since 2016, the re­ported 4000 ‘Con­tracted Em­ploy­ees’ were tran­si­tioned into reg­u­lar Pub­lic Ser­vice, given the as­sumed le­gal sta­tus of the re­spec­tive con­tracts – be­tween the in­di­vid­ual em­ployer agen­cies and their in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ees. For in­her­ent in th­ese con­trac­tual ar­range­ments, in which the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion has never been in­volved, was the in­cen­tive of a gra­tu­ity payable every six months, at the rate of 22.5 % monthly salary – now to be re­placed by pen­sion at age 55 years, based on years of ser­vice cri­te­ria.

Given the ob­vi­ously wide range of pe­ri­od­ic­i­ties of th­ese nu­mer­ous con­tracts, it is hardly un­rea­son­able to en­quire of which Agen­cies were in­volved in pro­cess­ing the method­ol­ogy used to place the tar­get per­son­nel into any of the Pub­lic Ser­vice 14 Job Grades; and at what points in the re­spec­tive scales shown later be­low.

Surely this must be a source of sub­stan­tial puz­zle­ment to the Union in­volved.

At this very junc­ture, our ob­server is faced with a co­nun­drum, if not a ma­jor con­flict of in­ter­est sit­u­a­tion; for since all Pub­lic Ser­vants (in­clud­ing for­mer ‘Con­tracted Em­ploy­ees’) will now fall squarely within the purview of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, they can le­git­i­mately vol­un­teer to be rep­re­sented by the Guyana Pub­lic Ser­vice Union, whose Pres­i­dent hith­erto has been the Chair­man (ag.) of the em­ployer Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

But it might be help­ful to ex­am­ine how the re­cent COI into the Pub­lic Ser­vice treated with th­ese is­sues.

The Com­mis­sion­ers would be rea­son­ably sat­is­fied that an at­tempt has been made to re­spond pos­i­tively to the fol­low­ing Rec­om­men­da­tion 13:

“13) that con­tract work­ers in all grades hold­ing Pub­lic Ser­vice po­si­tions be ab­sorbed into the pen­sion­able Pub­lic Ser­vice es­tab­lish­ment pro­vided that they are suit­ably qual­i­fied to fill es­tab­lished po­si­tions”.

The last is a wor­ry­ing pro­viso, which in­vites the ques­tion as to whether the 4000 per­son­nel said to be tran­si­tioned were in fact re­cruited into ‘es­tab­lished po­si­tions’?

Im­por­tantly also, the COI Re­port ap­plied a fur­ther stric­ture in the fol­low­ing Rec­om­men­da­tion:

“14) the con­tracted em­ploy­ees/work­ers should be re­stricted to, high level pro­fes­sional skills not avail­able in the Pub­lic Ser­vice; and moreso ‘should be re­cruited and se­lected through open com­pe­ti­tions….’

Ques­tion: What are the ranges of pro­fes­sional skills of that 4000 of the re­ported to­tal of 14,000 Pub­lic Ser­vants?

By no means un­re­lated is Rec­om­men­da­tion 23 of the COI Re­port:

“23) that an Or­gan­i­sa­tional Re­struc­tur­ing be un­der­taken in two Phases. In the first Phase em­pha­sis should be placed on ra­tio­nal­is­ing the sta­tus of pen­sion­able and con­tract em­ploy­ees, and the de-bunch­ing of em­ploy­ees in the Salary Struc­ture”.

The above is a most sen­si­tive commentary, as it ad­verts to the feel­ings of those long-ser­vice tra­di­tional em­ploy­ees who would likely be by-passed in the hasty tran­si­tion process.

A not un­rea­son­able un­der­ly­ing re­flec­tion must be on whether or not con­tract ser­vice years would still count in the com­pu­ta­tion of pen­sion.

But more im­me­di­ately how­ever, would be the deep con­cern about the very fun­da­men­tal is­sue of ‘bunch­ing’ that very likely af­fects the ma­jor­ity of Pub­lic Ser­vants. For there has been no per­for­mance ap­praisal sys­tem in op­er­a­tion for decades, so that with the stead­fast ap­pli­ca­tion of ‘across-the-board’ in­creases few would have earned what used to be known to older ser­vants as ‘merit in­cre­ments’ in or­der to move along any one of the to­tally (hy­po­thet­i­cal) 14 Salary Scales – ex­tracted from the 2017 Na­tional Es­ti­mates and shown at the end of this sub­mis­sion.

Sim­ply put, ‘bunch­ing’ means that if for ex­am­ple one was em­ployed at the min­i­mum of a par­tic­u­lar scale fif­teen years ago, with the mere ap­pli­ca­tion of across-the­board in­creases, the in­di­vid­ual re­mains at the same min­i­mum as all the per­sons who would have joined the Pub­lic Ser­vice since then. The new­comer of 2016/17 will there­fore en­joy the same ben­e­fit as the long suf­fer­ing pre­de­ces­sor.

The tragic re­al­ity has been, and will con­tinue to be that if, the an­nounced new in­creases are im­ple­mented be­fore the ‘de-bunch­ing’ ex­er­cise is un­der­taken – (for which there has been a long es­tab­lished for­mula) – the es­ti­mated costs of the pro­posed salary in­creases could es­ca­late

ap­pre­cia­bly, re­gard­less of the se­quenc­ing.

So re­flect on Rec­om­men­da­tion 24 of the COI Re­port: “24) that the Sec­ond Phase con­tinue the re­struc­tur­ing process by way of a thor­oughly con­ducted Job Eval­u­a­tion study”. The is­sue cul­mi­nates in de­cid­ing which is the ‘cart’ and which is the ‘horse’? Pre­sum­ably the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion will in­vite the ad­vice of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Min­istry/Depart­ment. But heaven al­lows! Once more the ex­pressed de­ter­mi­na­tion to ig­nore those who ed­u­cate the pub­lic ser­vants, the Teach­ers. Just look and com­pare their cur­rent salary struc­tures.

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