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Public service unions call for dialogue on reforms

File photo: Finance Minister Harris Georgiades with civil servants union Pasydy chief Glafcos Hadjipetrou

PUBLIC service unions on Friday called for dialogue with the government over reforms with some arguing that it was not completed while others saying they were not even invited to express their opinion.

Following the approval by the cabinet this week of a package of new bills for the reform of the civil service after the rejection by parliament some three years ago of the previous proposal, two civil servant unions said they would like to have a say before the bills are tabled to the House for a vote.

The head of Pasydy Glafcos Hadjipetrou, expressed his dismay that consultations with the government on the new set of bills were not completed before the cabinet approved them.

He told Phileleftheros that there were still pending issues.

“I don’t agree with this rush. The finance ministry ought to call Pasydy anew and brief us on the changes to these bills,” he told the daily.

He added that the union had asked for clarifications on some provisions which were not received as yet.

Hadjipetrou said that since there was an agreement with the government on the previous bills especially on difficult issues, the initial agreement had to be kept.

He did not elaborate on the content of the new bills, arguing he was not quite sure what they entailed, the daily reported.

In the meantime, the board of the independent union of civil servants (Asdik) said in a written statement that the approval by the cabinet of the bills provided another opportunity to discuss issues that have been pending for years.

Arguing that the main characteristic of every reform is public consultation, the union said that in their case, “there was none.”

The union said they were sent the bills last May and were given 10 to 15 days to send their remarks. Despite their response, none of their suggestions was adopted.

The union said that even so, it finds the bills improved compared to the previous ones.

Among the union’s suggestions is that all civil servants ought to be assessed regardless of their seniority since, “some still maintain their infallibility (such as the permanent secretaries,) while for directors, the evaluation by their subordinates is voluntary.”

Another problem the union points out is the way disciplinary probes are ordered since it allows exploitation of the system by some for completely irrelevant reasons than what they are meant for “to intimidate and subjugate the employees.”

The union also points out that the law approved by parliament on secondments of civil servants from the public service to semi-government organisations and vice versa, “is clearly not efficient and must be amended.”

The secondment of an employee cannot be solely depended on their superiors’ consent, the union said, pointing out that many have taken advantage and abused their power by not allowing employees to be seconded no matter how many times they ask.

“Although many civil servants seek/pursue mobility, directors and directorates stand in the way and prevent them,“ the union said.

It added that when many employees working at the same service ask to be seconded to another service, it is an indication that there is a serious administrative or managerial problem they want to get away from.

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said last Wednesday the new bills were drafted following consultations with all parties involved.

The bills provide for a new evaluation system to replace the current one under which most civil servants are deemed ‘exceptional’.

It also introduces provisions for high ranking officials who will go through an examination process when seeking promotion rather than the present procedure by which they are promoted according to years of service.

Cyprus has been repeatedly urged by the EU to adopt reforms to improve the efficiency of the public sector in particular as regards public administration, governance of state-owned entities and local government.

 

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