A familiar Victorian line goes around serpents that play innocence, but have in check a venomous bite like serpents. Similar parallels can be drawn about the recent salary strikes and the consequent 61 percent salary hike, yet very much insignificant if the mathematics of weighted averaging are played. I think Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) got a raw deal because its most vulnerable members, often historically active in the civil service union movement remain highly underpaid and can barely afford basic necessities. Maybe call it a serpent hijack with traits of negotiating deals, but sincerely basking in prosperity of the status quo.
I don’t think the increase in salaries really changes anything. If a civil servant at Capital Hill gets K29 000 (about $82) for doing ‘messengerial’ duties and counterparts get almost thrice for doing the same job at some tax-funded payer institution, we have a serious problem of job banding. It was just an example but the history of civil service pay has evolved at some sick snail’s pace.
Recalling the Chatsika report, a serious attempt to review the remuneration mechanism of the public service one is often left agape checking the half-foot pace of rewarding public workers and, of course, putting in place an efficient and competitive service. The said report documented and recommended the pay structure of our public servants, but for whatever reason, it lies peacefully on somebody’s shelf. We can expect the recent strikes to become a norm until the civil service is reformed to operate efficiently but also as an industry that requires highly skilled employees to deliver government programmes.
Over the years, remuneration priorities seemed to have departed from the Chatsika report. A path of contract system for senior servants, often at the helm of high echelons of decision making, overrode the Chatsika report for reasons one can only speculate as self-interest. To me, it sounds like a solution delayed and currently manifest in a well-informed public service conscious in workers rights. No one should take it kindly when doctors write publicly about lack of medication, but it is only a symptom of burning anger in boiling pressure pot of how the public service has become shambolic. More to come I guess, and the unfavourable part, remains the contagion effects of industrial strikes given the high cost of living in this country.
The 61 percent is a classic example of how CSTU should take their movement seriously. Someone gets such a rise and yet they cannot afford basic necessities of life. While government may take pride in resolving the strike and its after-effects, it still remains a time bomb; unfortunately, myopia remains an inherent obsession to justify the status quo. Will the increase stimulate the efficiency of public servants? Will it stop any sort of other economic activities that a disillusioned public servant will undertake for being underpaid and failing to live comfortably despite a 61 percent rise in salaries? Gone is an era where people train to drive government cars and have a pension out of it. Some expenses are not worth the salt. Someone must seriously review the Pensions Bill and get insights into avoidable future expenses on the same line.
And no expense is justified and it brings me to our “star performers”, MPs to be precise. Here we have an MP who has been in Parliament for some times but has never drafted or presented any bill to help or even force this country to some knees demanding a hefty fuel arrear. Where did you drive your duty-free car to, to deserve such payments? By not paying duty on their cars, MPs have no moral right to demand any fuel arrears. Why should you avoid paying tax on your cars and at the same time demand more funds from the taxpayer? We are not only paying you accommodation while Parliament is in session but also paying for your literally sitting in Parliament including coffee break and croissants. In practice, any single MP, should provide us with their travel budget over the years, including any official documentation of fuel purchases and associated activities of the same to get any refund. Otherwise, get a job somewhere and demand the same. That multi-million house should live to its billing and probably show more leadership to ensure each one of us is accountable and proves why they need a 61 percent rise in pay or some figure.