Sunday, December 17, 2017

Public Service News from around the world

Diplomat in stormy sign-off

WASHINGTON (December 10): A senior diplomat in the United States Department of State has sent a scathing resignation letter to her boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, accusing him and President Donald Trump of undercutting the Department and damaging America’s influence in the world.

Elizabeth Shackelford, who most recently served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the US mission to Somalia, wrote that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the Administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work.

“I have deep respect for the career Foreign and Civil Service staff who, despite the stinging disrespect this Administration has shown our profession, continue the struggle to keep our foreign policy on the positive trajectory necessary to avert global disaster in increasingly dangerous times,” Ms Shackelford wrote.

“With each passing day, however, this task grows more futile, driving the Department’s experienced and talented staff away in ever greater numbers.”

Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of mid-career diplomats who have lost confidence in Mr Tillerson’s management and the Trump Administration’s approach toward diplomacy.


Government rejects PS claims

PRETORIA (December 13): The South African Government and its Public Service are heading for a showdown after State negotiators rejected almost all wage and conditions of employment demands tabled by public sector labour unions.

Government negotiators told unions that it could afford to adjust salaries only in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for employees on Levels One to 10 and CPI minus one per cent for Levels 11 and 12. The CPI is currently at 4.8 per cent.

The unions have demanded an increase of 10 per cent for the highest-paid workers and 12 per cent for the rest. They also want the lowest paid Levels One to Three phased out as they consider people on these levels are on "slave wages".

Independent Labour Caucus spokesperson Basil Manuel said while there would be another meeting in January to discuss the Government’s offer in detail, the initial proposal “failed to set the right tone for negotiations”.


Online job ads false – commission

ABUJA (December 11): The Nigerian Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) has once again been forced to deny an online announcement that it is recruiting for hundreds of positions in the Public Service. It said the announcement was not true and should be disregarded.

Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations Joel Oruche said the commission advertised vacancies only in the newspapers and on its website.

“We wish to advise members of the public to always visit our authentic website for advertisements and any other necessary information from the commission,’ Dr Oruche said.

It is not the first time the false advertisement scam has been tried; people who reply to it are usually requested to hand over a sum of money as a ‘deposit’ for their application, which they never see again.


PS chief urged to grant pay rise

BELFAST (10 December) A union representing teachers in  Northern Ireland has called on the head of the Province’s Public Service, David Sterling, to use his powers to give teachers a pay award.

The NASUWT union has written to Mr Sterling calling on him to allocate finances to the Department of Education to enable it to make a significant above-inflation pay award for teachers for 2017-18.

The Northern Ireland Public Service has been the de facto Government of the Province since a power-sharing agreement between the two major parties forming the Executive collapsed in February.

“When the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury both state that all powers over pay now lie with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, they have a duty to use those powers to address the very real concerns that teachers have over pay,” the union stated.


‘Substantial’ rise in exam hopefuls

BEIJING (December 11): More than 1.1 million candidates have sat for China’s annual National Public Service Examination — a substantial increase on last year’s figure of 984,000.

Some 28,000 positions are expected to be filled, meaning only one out of every 39 candidates is expected to get a government job.

This year's exam saw an increase of 76,000 applicants for grassroots positions in difficult and remote areas, perhaps the result of the lower application thresholds for such posts.

Results will be announced in January, 2018.


Gender pay gap still a problem

WELLINGTON (December 8): A report on the New Zealand Public Service shows it is better paid and more educated. However, more work needs to be done on the gender pay gap.

In the final year of the previous National Government the Public Service expanded at a rate of more than 100 new employees a month, despite a promise to cap the number of Public Servants at 36,475.

That target was breached in 2013 and in the last year, the State Services Commission stopped reporting on the overall cap data. 

The commission’s report showed the Public Service employed 48,900 people as at 30 June.


Government appeals gay rights ruling  

HONG KONG (December 12): The Hong Kong Government has launched an appeal against a court’s decision to grant spousal benefits to the husband of a gay Hong Kong Public Servant.

Immigration Officer Angus Leung married his husband, Scott Adams in New Zealand in 2014 and applied to the Civil Service Bureau for a change in his marital status to obtain welfare, such as medical benefits, for Mr Adams.

The bureau did not allow the change, stating that Hong Kong did not recognise same-sex marriages. Mr Leung filed for a judicial review before Court of First Instance which ruled in his favour.

The Government argues that as it does not recognise same sex marriage and as Public Service benefits are based on whether a marriage is recognised, Mr Leung’s husband cannot obtain such benefits.


Arbitration pay award accepted

HALIFAX (December 8): The Government of the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia says it will accept an independent arbitrator’s decision to award a seven per cent pay rise to its Public Servants, despite arguing for a much lower figure.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the award, which will be spread over six years “is within the Province’s means”.

The Government has made control of public sector salaries and benefits one of its major political positions in recent years and wanted to limit increases to three per cent over four years.

President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Jason MacLean stopped short of calling it a victory, but said he was satisfied with the ruling.


Minister announces general pay award

KAMPALA (12 December): The Ugandan Minister for Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, says all Government workers will get a pay rise in the next financial year.

He said the first phase would include teachers, health workers and low ranking officers in the armed forces.

“The Government will announce how much each of the Public Servants will be earning before the end of the year,” Mr Mukasa said.

The proposed salary increments come at a time when different public sector workers, including doctors, prosecutors and judicial officers, have gone on strike in the last few months to demand better pay.


Hospital Chair quits in finding row

LONDON (December 11): A former head of the United Kingdom Public Service, Lord Kerslake, has resigned his post as Chair of Kings College Hospital Trust, citing funding problems with the National Health Service (NHS).

In his resignation announcement he said that while he loved the hospital, the Government had been unrealistic about the scale of the challenge facing the NHS and the Trust.

“King’s, like many other hospitals, is fighting against the inexorable pressures of rising demand, increasing costs of drugs and other medical supplies, and the tightest spending figures in recent times,” Lord Kersalke said.

“Fundamentally, our problems lie in the way that the NHS is funded and organised. We desperately need a fundamental rethink. Until then we are simply ‘kicking the can down the road’.”


Annual bonus ‘paid next year’

HARARE (December 9): Reinstated Zimbabwean Minister for Finance Patrick Chinamasa has promised the country’s Public Servants they will be paid their 2017 bonus beginning next year, saying he had set aside $US176 million ($A229 million) for what is popularly known as the ‘13th cheque’.

It is something of a turnaround for Mr Chinamasa who tried on two occasions to have the bonus suspended, only to be overruled by former President Robert Mugabe.

His assurance brought relief to anxious Public Servants who had not received any communication from the new Government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa over whether the bonus would be continued.

The good news was tempered by Mr Chinamasa’s announcement that all Public Servants over 65 must take immediate retirement together with an indefinite freeze on recruitment.


Stern warning to PS partygoers

BELFAST (December 8): While it might be the festive season, workers in the Northern Ireland Public Service have been warned not to overdo the celebrations, and to behave themselves at office parties.

A leaked internal memo sets out guidelines that should be observed when it comes to general behaviour, social media and the consumption of alcohol.

"We would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the need to maintain high standards of behaviour and conduct at Christmas parties and seasonal social events, whether they are held on official premises or outside the workplace," the memo states.

"You should be aware that inappropriate behaviour occurring at social events such as Christmas parties, or gatherings after work, can constitute unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying in the same way as if it had occurred in the workplace."


Pay offer a ‘three-card trick’ 

KINGSTON (December 13): A Jamaican Opposition politician has accused the Government of “playing games” in the latest round of pay negotiations with the Public Service, saying its so-called new offer was a “three-card trick”.

Shadow Minister for the Public Service Lambert Brown said the Government's latest offer of four per cent in year one and two per cent in year two in no way changed the fundamental offer of three per cent in year one and three per cent in year two and would not result in any material difference to the take home pay packages of public sector workers.

Speaking after the breakdown of negotiations between the police and teachers and the Government, Mr Brown said Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw was “taking the workers for fools with a preposterous proposal, which only provokes a new attitude of entrenched opposition to any settlement offer on the present terms”.


Concern at role of Ministerial advisers

WELLINGTON (December 12): Government Ministers need to be well-informed to make good decisions for New Zealand — and urgent action is needed to ensure they get the best advice, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

Research commissioned by the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) highlights increasing concerns about the role of Ministerial advisers.

The work, by Chris Eichbaum and Richard Shaw, shows growing concern that Ministerial advisers intervene in the relationship between senior Public Servants and Ministers — and that Ministers have been reluctant to accept free and frank advice.

National Secretary of the Public Service Association Glenn Barclay said the report indicated some Ministerial advisers had been acting as gatekeepers, and Public Servants were self-censoring as a result.


Permanency for long-serving contractors

MANILIA (10 December): A Bill granting permanency to Public Service contractors with 12 years of service has been introduced into the Philippines House of Representatives.

Introducing the legislation, lawmaker Joel Mayo Almario said the measure sought to recognise the valuable input of the temporary workforce in the Government.

 “It is hoped the passage of this measure will promote efficient Government service and dedication by providing Public Servants with the opportunity of acquiring security of tenure and other benefits,” Mr Almario said.

“It shall have both retroactive and prospective application, allowing all those who have reached 12 continuous years of service prior to and after the passage of this Bill to apply for this privilege.”

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