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Our View: Better pay should be possible for civil servants that deserve it

strik

Between 70 and 100 workers of the social insurance service went on strike on Tuesday, demanding better promotion prospects and earning potential. These are clerical staff, on the lowest pay scales (A-2-5-7), who want the government to implement an ‘understanding’ it had supposedly reached with Pasydy last year.

This is a different demand from the public employees on the same pay scales that are set to go on strike on Wednesday demanding higher pay because they had been on low wages for many years. Finance Minister Makis Keravnos recently expressed sympathy for their cause and said he would look at ways of satisfying them, although no decision has been taken.

The government should not even be discussing this under the current regime, in which people are hired as clerical staff by the civil service and spend their career doing clerical work. The earning potential of clerical staff, justifiably, is limited, even though the Pasydy official representing the social insurance workers claimed their pay did not reflect the responsibilities their job involved.

In other words, the government must increase the pay of clerical staff (referred to as ‘technical structure’ workers), not because the nature of their work has changed or their productivity has increased, but because Pasydy has decided even low-level public employees must be paid more. And the finance minister agrees with the economically irrational demand of the union.

These low-level employees have a point regarding the lack of promotion prospects, but this is because of the rigid structure of the civil service. Civil servants that do not have a university degree cannot rise above a certain pay grade even if they work hard, are highly productive, take initiative and improve their overall performance every year. They will not rise in the ranks because they do not have a university degree, as if a degree is the only measure of a civil servant’s capabilities and performance. Yet there is no shortage of unproductive and demotivated graduates.

For the non-graduates who are good at their job to have promotion prospects there should be reliable staff evaluation system, which has never existed in the public sector – be it in government or schools – because the unions have vehemently opposed it. All public employees get top ratings in performance evaluations because unions do not want excellence rewarded – this would limit union power and the stranglehold they have over members.

Civil servants on supposedly low wages must have the opportunity to increase their pay and have prospects of getting to the top of the hierarchy. The only way for this to happen is through the introduction of a reliable staff evaluation system that ensures the promotion of the best performing workers, irrespective of whether they have a degree or not. This is what the government should be looking at doing rather than considering increasing the wages of all clerical staff who get low wages because of the job they do.

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