'Bias' over jobs - Union warns Gov't against forcing some public sector workers to reapply for posts
President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) O'Neil Grant is crying foul at what he describes as the discriminatory treatment of officers in the Fiscal Management Group (FMG) of the public sector who are often required to reapply for their jobs when there is a reclassification of those positions.
Grant told The Gleaner that the nearly 1,000 accountants and auditors who comprise the FMG are the ones most affected whenever there is an upgrade or re-titling of positions.
"What we are seeing, and it is now becoming a bit of a standard that we are trying to stamp out, is that workers are being asked to apply for their own jobs, and the only thing that has changed is the governance structure of the organisation," he said.
Grant said that the JCSA was currently seeking legal advice to determine the legality of this government requirement.
He argued that when a reclassification exercise takes place in other sectors such as health, the fire service, or the correctional services, the persons reclassified are not asked to reapply for their positions.
"They are doing it for workers in the Fiscal Management Group, and it is a clear case of bias and discrimination by the Government, and we are asking that it be stopped, but the [Public] Service Commission has not gone far enough to eradicate the practice," he said.
He claims that the commission has modified the practice by instructing that only persons above a certain grade be asked to reapply for their jobs or sit a competency interview.
The Gleaner understands that persons who are not successful in retaining their jobs after reapplying are ushered into other areas in the public sector
However, Grant insists that regardless of what it is called, the JCSA believes that it is still "manifestly unfair because once they have been in the job, appointed by the governor general, then they should not have to go and re-prove that they are competent to carry out the job".
JOB SECURITY CONCERNS
At the same time, the JCSA head said that there remained some amount of uncertainty in the public sector as it related to the Public Sector Transformation programme.
"A big part of the challenge that the workers continue to have is that they don't know what this change will look like," reasoned Grant, who noted that there were concerns about job security.
"We hear the umbrella talk about moving public service into a private setting, and workers who are in the public sector who will be impacted are going to be placed in the private sector, but what you are doing is moving people from a certain level of job security to one where their jobs are not so secure," he added.
He urged the Government to pay attention to what he called "psychological stress", noting that the JCSA was of the view that not much had been done to prepare public sector workers to deal with the psychology of change.
Commenting on the transformation process, President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) Kavan Gayle said his organisation continued to push for consultation with the Government and unions to "see as best as possible how you can achieve the better of both worlds in the transformation".
Gayle argued that apart from the protection of jobs in the transformation process, the BITU would like the Government to ensure that it achieves a more robust and efficient public sector that can satisfy the needs of the State.
Finance Minister Audley Shaw told Parliament in September that the Government had prepared an action plan for public-sector transformation, which it had submitted to Cabinet.
He had reported that the plan would set out time-bound actions to improve efficiency in the public sector through shared corporate services and the closure, merger, and privatisation of some state-owned entities.
Efforts to reach state minister with responsibility for the public service Rudyard Spencer for a comment were unsuccessful, even though a message was left with his assistant for him to return The Gleaner's telephone calls.