Will performance rise more than pay hikes?

The Public Services Department (PSD) and the Cuepacs deserve the public’s congratulations for concluding an agreement so quickly after the prime minister intervened to ask for an early settlement of the dispute. It has turned out to be a New Year’s gift to the government’s 1.4 million employees, which we hope will benefit the nation and the public, too!

The public, like Cuepacs and the government, will be generally “relieved” over this agreement coming as the year goes out! However there would be some public concern that the “on-the-spot amendments” made during the hurried negotiations may not have adequately taken into account the high price that we have paid, for the improvements in the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA).

Firstly, the apparent improvements to SBPA are actually concessions made to Cuepacs, to reduce the Annual Performance Evaluation Report marks, from 75 percent to 65 percent, for a salary increase. This means that the PSD has sacrificed the performance targets to make it easier for civil servants to qualify for salary increments.

The public will legitimately ask whether this lowering of performance standards justifies higher tax expenditures, especially when the government has committed itself to cutting down its growing budget deficits?

Secondly, another major concession given to Cuepacs is to lower the marks for the Exit Policy (ie, leaving the service for inefficiency), from 70 percent to 60 percent. The duration of poor performance is also now extended to 12 months from the earlier proposed six month period. The question that the public will raise is why we should tolerate poor performance at 60 percent and why for as long as one whole year ?

However, the agreement to hold joint consultations every three months is laudable. This move will enable more opportunities to encourage Cuepacs to come up with ways and means of raising quality standards in the public service, instead of concentrating mainly on salary increases. These consultations should additionally improve public sector employer/employee relations and understanding of good governance and hopefully reduce financial wastage and corruption?

It is hoped that during these quarterly consultations, the government will also brief Cuepac’s leaders on the national economic and budget performance. This broader consultative approach will help to enhance Cuepac’s appreciation that more concessions and subsidies will not help us achieve our Vision 2020 goals.

Cuepacs must realise that unless their productivity and efficiency improve even more than the rising costs of the salary improvements, which in many areas exceed the employees in the private sector, the economy will be burdened with larger budget deficits and more and more debt .

Our economic progress and sustainability must be protected, just like our security and defence, at all costs!

However, we congratulate the government/PSD and Cuepacs for the successful conclusion of the SBPA before the New Year. We also wish them all a Happy New Year, with the sincere hope that public service performance will rise even more than their generous salary increases, in both the national and public interests, please!

Article published in The Star and Malaysiakini.

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