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Productivity, salary and the public sector

Published:Thursday | July 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Minister DalLey reinvigorated discussions among public-sector workers concerning productivity and salary when he announced in Parliament on July 8, 2014, the planned commencement of wage negotiations with unions representing civil servants.

No one can dispute the reality that Jamaica's financial position is unhealthy, especially with our high debts, poor level of tax compliance, propensity to import, lack of investment, and an inefficient public service. It might seem surprising that I have included an inefficient public service as one of the causes of the country's financial problems, being a civil servant myself. The fact is, in several government offices, some staff are paid for the full 8 hours per day, but are only productive for four hours. They leave the premises for personal reasons, spend time chatting to colleagues, surf the Internet, arrive for work religiously late, play games on the computer, and gossip away on the telephone. Yet, they are compensated similarly as the high productive staff who work their full 8 hours, use initiative to complete assignments successfully, and surpass their performance targets annually.


The irony about this situation is, if as a manager you try to change these unethical practices, you are seen as a "very poor manager" by both the staff and your manager, who most times, are cultured to be lazy and unproductive as well. In the civil service, it is almost impossible to dismiss or sanction a staff for low productivity, frequent absenteeism, poor punctuality or time management.

In spite of these problems, the consumer price index has increased by almost 75 per cent since civil servants last received a salary increase in 2009. In other words, what we could have purchased for $1,000 in 2009, now cost $1,750. Our standard of living has deteriorated beyond what anyone could ever imagine. It has forced many of us to conserve utilities, reduce groceries, contain expenses associated with the education of our children, transportation, support to our parents etc. How can one enjoy their job if they can't save to pay university tuition for their children, live in a home that they own, drive a decent car, take care of their elderly parents, have a vacation, and save towards a comfortable retirement? After seven years of no increase in salary, the Government has to be merciful and grant us an increase in the next bargaining period of 2015-2017.

I do firmly believe also that the circumstance dictates that the Government carefully examine the productivity of the public sector and implement the appropriate change programme to ensure waste, inefficiencies and corruption are eliminated. It is only then that professionals like myself and others will feel motivated to continue to excel in our performance and contribute meaningfully to the development of our beloved country.