THE GOVERNMENT’S ingenious plan for the public sector, of some promotions without pay rises, has already hit problems. DISY and, to a lesser extent, DIKO are reluctant to approve it, for different reasons, while the secondary school teachers’ union has been claiming that if there were no promotions schools would not be able to operate in September. Meanwhile, AKEL and DIKO drafted a proposal which would open up double the 785 promotions envisaged by the government bill.
The House finance committee, the approval of which is required, will discuss the matter today, but it is anyone’s guess what it would decide. Finance minister Haris Georgiades, who appeared before the committee on Tuesday, had to explain why there were promotions in only some departments of the public sector and not for the 1,500 positions that need to be filled. Georgiades explained that the government had decided there would be promotions only in education, the security forces and only for the top posts in the civil service. This was because a major restructuring of the public service was being planned and many positions could be deemed unnecessary.
A legitimate point, even though knowing the pace at which government reform takes place it could be another two or three years before the restructuring is completed. The state education system is also in need of restructuring, but there was no holding back on promotions in the government bill, despite the experts’ reports pointing out there were too many management positions in state education. This may have been the reason the teaching union was pressing for the approval of the bill – it wanted to lock the promotions before any positions were scrapped.
DISY was viciously attacked by the union for opposing the bill, but its spokesman Prodromos Prodromou explained that the party wanted to be certain that the all these promotions would be necessary, especially as he did not buy the government assurance that these would not be accompanied by pay rises. Prodromou feared that once the promotions were made, civil servants would file appeals to the Supreme Court, arguing that a promotion without a pay rise was unconstitutional and, in all probability, they would win. What would the government do when faced with such a development?
The likelihood is that not enough thought was given to the matter. If it had, the wage cuts in the public sector would have been slightly bigger to cover the cost of a small number of promotions. Alternatively, there would have been no promotions but employees could have been acting up. Such measures, though, would have been very unpopular which was why the government decided to improvise policy and pray that the political parties would play along. Whether they would, we will find out today.