Civil Service Salary Reviews Crucial In Reforms

As more details of the civil service reforms continue to be unveiled it is encouraging to note that one of the key issues is making sure that public service employees
15 Apr 2016 08:51
Civil Service Salary Reviews Crucial In Reforms

As more details of the civil service reforms continue to be unveiled it is encouraging to note that one of the key issues is making sure that public service employees are appropriately paid for the work they do.

Basic factors in the equation would of course include qualification, experience, productivity and meeting key performance indicators (KPIs).

While attempts have been made in the past to address these issues, they have merely scratched the surface.

Hopefully the reforms will resolve some age-old questions about what seems to be different pay structures from department to department and the rationale used to determine them.

How do we compare, for example, pen pushers doing clerical work or processing papers in Government offices to doctors, nurses, teachers, civil and construction engineers and other professionals?

In the medical field, doctors and nurses need an adjustment to their remuneration package to reflect the critical work they perform. Teachers’ conditions also need a review particularly in rural and maritime schools.

Any change will be based on necessity, merit and affordability. We cannot compare ourselves to larger economies but we can arrive at a realistic and sustainable structure.

One of our closest neighbours, New Zealand, has taken some tough budgetary measures. It has put a ceiling on health spending and as a result district health boards cannot hire more medical specialists.

With the help of experts the Government has recruited and with the support of the World Bank we can come up with  a desired system.

The bottom line is that workers should be rewarded on merit. There is no better example than the outstanding performance of Fiji Airways Group staff who have worked so hard to enable the group achieve a before tax profit of $70.2 million for the year ending December 31,2015. The staff will receive a share of the profit.

While the nature of the work of public servants is different to commercial sector workers, the principle is the same.

The same kind of motivation that drives the Fiji Airways employees to success should also motivate public servants. The rewards should come by way of promotions and pay increases.

Public service is service oriented, helping the public to develop and use their resources to improve their living standards. It encourages enterprise and economic growth. At the end of the year public servants don’t have to show they have made a profit like Fiji Airways staff. But their performance is measured through the public response to their service. It usually has not been favourable.

But that perception is changing with the reforms kicking in.

One of the challenges the public service faced in the past was the loss of qualified and skilled people to the private sector and overseas.

Market demands drive labour mobility. This is an international phenomenon and small island economies like ours are vulnerable.

The reforms could create a favourable climate for these professionals to stay. So retention of our brain power is critical as we move forward.

A peaceful industrial relations climate is also crucial if the reforms are going to work. In the past, industrial relations unrests had created an unfavourable environment for the kind of growth and success targeted by the reforms. They created divisiveness and thwarted opportunities for unity and progress.

The rebuilding process to reinstate a stable and peaceful labour industry will add strength to the reforms.

So in a nutshell, the way forward is a happy and hard-working public service. The current reforms will produce that ideal situation.


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