Government and civil servants

Susana Tuisawau, Suva | Saturday, June 3, 2017

Misleading the nation or citizens because of lack of knowledge or by ignoring the rights of workers and the long established

government polices, practices and procedures pertaining to civil servants' conditions of work is now emerging as a national crisis.

This must stop. I believe that good national leadership is about having the will to learn from and respect the collective experience of past governments and civil servants and the wisdom of working within well established rules and practices which all had respected.

Most importantly, policies and procedures that had been painstakingly negotiated by workers' representatives or unions and their employer, the government and signed off as a collective agreement.

It is universally recognised that good industrial relations is the cornerstone of a truly democratic and just employer. It signifies effective and efficient human resource management.

However, I believe what we are seeing now is government imposing unilateral decisions to make changes outside the long standing signed agreements that had governed and protected the rights of Fiji's civil servants' to fair working conditions.

According to ILO Conventions which Fiji had ratified, decisions relating to workers' conditions are issues on which workers have the right to be consulted; to undertake negotiations and bargaining; and to agree to; before finalising an agreement signed by both parties. In our case, the government and the civil servants' trade unions.

The operative words are consultations, negotiations, bargaining and agreement with workers, before research and reform. These are not supposed to be parliamentary decisions first and then unilateral imposition on government workers.

Let us put the records straight. Fiji's civil service in the past had order and civil servant leaders were professionally and appropriately trained administrators.

Everyone within the system knew what the MQR (minimum qualifications requirement) of each post was and what constituted a breach of civil service policies and what matching disciplinary action to expect.

The working environment of the civil servants, inclusive of teachers and nurses, was hence safe because of the consistent observance and application of policies and procedures, security of tenure and the presence of the right to appeal.

Workers were evaluated annually through what used to be called the ACR (annual confidential report). Merits were awarded to encourage good performance and these were considered when applications for higher posts were made.

Further, all knew that the rationale for civil servants not being on contract is premised on the critical need for a national government to always have a secure, consistent and always well informed, unbroken government service.

Safeguarding national interests or security cannot be assured if there is a constant turnover of personnel. Unfortunately, everything became chaotic after the 2006 coup until today. I believe personal preferences of some leaders and nepotism in appointments are facilitated.

Now, there are civil servants with three or a one year contract. Some even operate on three monthly contracts. Banks cannot give loans to these workers.

I believe that all is needed is to just study and improve the monitoring, compliance and efficiency of operating the pre-2006 civil service system.

Use the wisdom and knowledge of the experienced government workers and if racial balance is no longer justified, review it with the workers and correct stakeholders.

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