MERITOCRACY, or the rewarding of excellence in plain language, is an essential feature of any smooth-running and efficient organisation. Not only does it ensure that the best-performing and ablest workers have more responsibilities and powers, but it also offers a healthy incentive to workers to raise their productivity. We may be stating the obvious, but in Cyprus we are often blind to the obvious and the rational because these do not serve the interests of the big groups of people.
For instance the foreign consultants who were brought in by the government to make proposals for the modernisation of the civil service did not say anything that was not blatantly obvious to any rational person living in Cyprus. Then again, reform commissioner Emanuella Lambrianides had to mention the main points, raised by the consultants, because in countries run by unions nothing is obvious or rational. So she informed us that the state payroll, in its current structure was not sustainable; the system of automatic pay-rises did not promote productivity and performance; the promotion procedure’s reliance on seniority was not competitive; the absence of a reliable staff evaluation system was a problem.
But because Cyprus has been run by the unions and their political allies for decades all the above principles have been considered anathema. Unions are the great levellers, the staunch defenders of mediocrity, who abhor excellence or hard work. This is why the performances of 90 per cent of civil servants are evaluated as ‘excellent’. With so many ‘excellent’ employees a criterion of questionable value has to be used for promotions – seniority, which has the full approval of the unions as it allows those of limited abilities to move up the hierarchy.
When the sham evaluations were raised a while ago, PASYDY boss Glafcos Hadjipetrou insisted that the objective was for the 10 per cent of civil servants not rated as ‘excellent’ to improve so 100 per cent would be receive the top evaluation. And he was not joking. It was a display of the destructive, union-imposed, rationale, which de-motivates good workers, cultivating laziness, disinterest and low productivity.
This penalising of excellence is also evident at state schools, also run by the unions. It came as no surprise that the foreign consultants’ report mentioned the big discrepancy between state resources allocated to education and the results; in short children were getting very little in exchange for the money being spent on education. But the same generous reward system, unrelated to performance, operates at state schools.
The government is currently in the process of reforming the ‘waiting-list appointment system’ to state secondary schools which ensured the indiscriminate hiring of degree-holders, as teachers, once their turn came. They are not interviewed nor are their abilities and commitment tested. This criminal practice which protects mediocrity and laziness has been in place for decades. Teaching union OELMEK has now taken a stand against the proposed reform that would end it, because the new system would be unfair to hundreds of graduates. The union does not want the lazy, uncommitted and unintelligent graduates to be excluded from the state education gravy train, oblivious to the harm that is done by them in schools.
The levelling acts and penalising of excellence have also been evident in the ‘progressive’ pay cuts imposed by AKEL and the unions in the state sector; the same philosophy was followed at the banks that are also strongly unionised. The high-earners who did the more demanding jobs with much bigger responsibilities suffered higher percentage cuts than the lower earners, because for unions this was deemed ‘fair’. But what fairness is there in reducing wage differentials between different types of work? What is the logic of bringing the wage of a clerk with no responsibilities closer to that of senior manager that works much longer hours and has many more things to deal with?
This levelling of everything and everyone is part of the communist thinking imposed on the economy by AKEL and union bosses, because nobody ever dared to challenge it. Everyone is the same, deserving the same rewards and opportunities of promotions regardless of how they perform their job. The unions have eliminated motivation from the work place which is why schools, government departments and SGOs are failing, dysfunctional organisations. Thanks to the communist principles embraced by our elite, we have been championing the low productivity, inefficiency and waste of resources that led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc states.
That the government has recognised the seriousness of the problem is a positive development. Whether it would be able to tackle it successfully remains to be seen.