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Our View: Public service farce has been going on for decades

ΠτΔ – Επιτροπή Δημόσιας Υπηρεσίας
The Public Service Commission annual report being handed to the president on Wednesday (PIO)

One of the biggest achievements of the unions of the public sector, over the years, has been the championing of the mediocre, responsibility-fearing and unproductive workers. They have done this through restrictive practices included in the so-called collective agreements which no government challenges and which guarantee annual pay rises and regular promotions to public employees as long as they show up for work on a regular basis and follow the basic rules of the workplace.

This has been achieved by preventing the introduction of a reliable staff evaluation system, while making a complete mockery of the systems that exist. All public employees are graded ‘excellent’ which means promotions are based on a single criterion ‘seniority’ that covers all under-performing, unmotivated mediocre employees. This year, once again, 97 per cent of the 12,000 civil servants received the grade of ‘excellent’ for all aspects of their job performance, reported the head of the Civil Service Commission, Giorgos Papageorgiou, on Thursday.

This farce had been going on throughout the public service for decades, because this is the method through which the union can champion mediocrity and ensure the continuing dependence of workers on it. And this is why unions in the public sector have blocked any attempt by government to introduce a sound and reliable evaluation system. The Civil Service Commission has been trying unsuccessfully to introduce such a system since 2002. The Papadopoulos government hired a consultancy firm to formulate an evaluation system but Pasydy did not allow its introduction.

Teaching unions have been finding excuses not to discuss proper staff evaluation with the education ministry for years now, something that, undoubtedly has had an adverse effect on the standard of public education. Not only was the government hiring graduates indiscriminately, and making them teachers through the scandalous waiting list system it never properly evaluated them, allowing unfit individuals with no aptitude or interest in teaching to have glowing careers. Is it any wonder standards at public schools have been steadily falling for decades?

What is astonishing is that nobody seems capable or willing to make the connection between the safeguarding of the interests of the mediocre and the lousy service provided by the public sector. Why would civil servants have any incentive to provide a good service to people, work hard, take initiative when their pay rise at the end of the year and their promotion is guaranteed regardless? Why would a teacher bother making an effort in the classroom when they will be evaluated as ‘excellent’ regardless? In the last week there was public outrage because the 15 policemen investigated for dereliction of duties in the Metaxas murders would not face criminal charges, but did anyone consider that these inadequate officers had been receiving an ‘excellent’ grade for job performance?

The lack of proper evaluation systems in the public sector is not a joke. It causes great harm to our society as it is an operation in mass de-motivation of public sector workers. By rewarding the lazy and mediocre, it discourages commitment, hard work, initiative and the pursuit of excellence. Why would anyone bother doing their best on the job when this will go unrewarded and they will be put on a par with someone that does the bare minimum? As a consequence, we have a civil service that offers a poor and slow service to businesses and citizens, public schools that are consistently failing children and a police force that does not bother to investigate reports of missing women, among other things.

We are a society that is run by public sector unions, protecting the privileges of overpaid mediocrity, regardless of the multiple adverse consequences on the lives of the rest of the population. Sadly, these unions are in league with the political parties that actively protect this scandalous state of affairs, by blocking legislation aimed at changing things. This government had tabled bills in the House for the reform of the civil service, including the introduction of a proper staff evaluation system, in 2015 but the parties have been blocking them ever since.

There is a ray of hope now, because the release of funds by the EU for the recovery and resilience plan is linked to a raft of reforms being implemented by a specific deadline. The bills for the reform of the civil service have to be approved by the end of this year or there will be no money. The danger now is that opposition parties, at the behest of the unions, will amend the bills to such an extent they will not have the desired effect. Any such attempt must be resisted by the government and Disy even at the risk of the bills being rejected, because the primary objective must be ending of the unions’ total control of the public sector.

If we want to grow up as a country, and have a well-functioning state we have to take back control from the unions and their dogmatic championing of mediocrity.

 

 

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