Union wants more civil-service posts
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
The Public-Sector Transformation Committee (PSTC) is exploring ways to expand the number of posts in three critical ministries, even as one of its members insists this will not have a deleterious impact of the wage bill-reduction target agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
O'Neil Grant, who represents public-sector workers on the committee, listed three ministries - health, education and national security - as areas in which the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA) is pushing for the creation of new posts.
"You have more people than posts, and it is necessary to do a cadre rationalisation for the three to ensure that when people are retiring, they can go off with a pension," Grant told The Gleaner.
The education, health and national security ministries account for approximately 60 per cent of the public-sector labour force.
Under its agreement with the IMF, Jamaica must reform its public sector to, among other things, reduce the public-sector wage bill to at least nine per cent of GDP by March 2016.
Among the strategies being employed to attain the target is the elimination of 7,000 posts from the civil-service establishment. About 3,000 posts were eliminated in 2012. In 2013, another 3,000 were removed, and 1,000 which became vacant were not filled.
"The reduction in the size of the public sector will continue over the short to medium term, through the elimination of some posts and natural attrition, as the filling of vacant positions will be constrained as needed," the Government said in a fiscal policy paper laid in Parliament on September 30.
Grant, however, said that the creation of more posts will not be harmful to the country's economic programme, arguing that "the people are being paid already".
He conceded, however, that the new posts "might have an implication for the pension bill".
"We will have to have deeper discussion to see how we would arrange it with the pension aspect to ensure that these people do not become a liability on the State going forward," Grant told The Gleaner.
The PSTC has been mandated to finalise and drive the revised master rationalisation plan and will report to the Cabinet's Committee on Public Sector Transformation.
Grant told The Gleaner that the matter of additional posts is now a major issue being discussed.
"We are looking at the issue of those departments that are going through restructuring and reorganisation, and I can point out that the rationalisation of the posts in the Ministry of Health is [to be] brought back fully on the agenda of the PSTC because we have had a number of workers in the Ministry of Health who have been temporary for many, many years - up to 30 years - who are going off without a pension because there is no post on the establishment that was created in the early 1970s, and we are now looking to see how we can fix that," Grant said.
He argued that the cadre in the Ministry of Health is well below what is established and so it may be necessary to create new posts.
"For instance, take Spanish Town Hospital. You have over 100 ward assistants, but the cadre only speaks to 20, and the next 80-odd people are temporary. They can't be appointed, and they are there for many, many years. These people are on the payroll, so it is a matter of rationalising the cadre," he added.