Salary administration in public service

Dear Editor,
The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Public Service of Guyana 2016 considered, in keeping with its Terms of Reference, the principles on which wages and salaries of the public service should be fixed. The CoI reviewed past studies and went into detail of the compensation system in the public service, including the determination of wages and salaries, current salary structure for the various levels of public servants, job grading, staff performance evaluation, and pay for performance for incremental movement within the salary scales.
The CoI recommended organisational restructuring by rationalising the status of pensionable employees and contract employees, and the ‘de-bunching’ of employees in the salary structure as the first phase. The CoI specifically recommended that contract workers on all grades holding public service positions be absorbed into the pensionable service, subject to their being suitably qualified to fill established positions. There should be a determined professional approach to identify about 75 bench mark positions, and classify and place each position in the public service in one of the 75 bench mark positions, all placed within the 14-grade salary structure. This should correct any anomalous situation determined by objective weighting, value and worth for each job in the public service. These should be done in consultation with the recognised trade union for public servants.
Thereafter, the principles of collective bargaining should be employed in good faith in keeping with the established procedural arrangements between the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Ministry/Department of the Public Service for negotiations and final resolution. The CoI affirms that the system of industrial relations in the public service must be informed, influenced, and functions within the norms of national legislation, regional and international labour standards.
Immediately, the CoI recommended first phase should be undertaken without delay. The CoI recommended a thorough review of the staffing level in the public service to objectively determine the requirements of the full complement of suitably qualified staff in each office, unit, department, division, and Ministry with the appropriate organisational structure for each. Surplus staff should be redeployed as may be possible to other public agencies if suitably qualified to fill vacancies or be paid the severance benefits in keeping with law.
The existing 14-grade salary structure should be maintained with a more rational and attractive dollar value placed on the minimum, mid-point and maximum based on appropriate differentials to avoid overlapping. The benchmark for the highest public service position should be at the minimum of the salary scale no less than 10 per cent lower than a senior Minister’s salary which is set by Cabinet for itself (self-interest, conflict of interest). The CoI recommended that the salaries of the President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, Members of the National Assembly, Permanent Secretaries, Regional Chairmen, and Regional Executive Officers be set by the National Assembly on the recommendations of a Salary Review Commission. The Terms of Reference of such a Commission should also include all other aspects of remuneration/allowances. Trinidad and Tobago provides an excellent example in this connection, thereby removing any actual or perceived conflict of interest and self-interest.
This first phase as outlined above, should be undertaken without delay. It provides a basis for negotiations between the Government and the GPSU executives whose mouths seem to have been muzzled by inherent conflict of interest, and other considerations, much to the discomfort of public servants. Patrick Yarde who has been President of the GPSU for some 30 years is also now acting Chairman of the Public Service Commission. The Union membership is calling on him again to represent the substantive interests of public servants. But the conflict is that he, at the same time, recruits employees of the public service into membership of the GPSU. Oh what a tangled web of conflict of interest in full view of the public!

Joshua Singh