Spoiling a good thing

CARNIVAL is no longer on the cards, but that has not stopped some from playing ole mas.

At least according to the Prime Minister.

“People have been abusing rather than co-operating,” Dr Rowley said on Saturday as he reported on the 50 per cent rotation system introduced in the public service at his behest. “It is like a general free-for-all.”

The Prime Minister chided “weak management” and said he would ask top bureaucrats to keep rosters “at all stations, at all locations” in an effort to ensure strict adherence.

With these measures, Dr Rowley was to some extent preaching to the choir.

Long delays, inefficient and inept service – these have long been what the public has come to expect of the public service.

With a huge chunk of the fiscal package unveiled last week by Cabinet devoted to paying the salaries of public workers, it is not asking much to expect value for money.

Breaking biche is always bad for any public servant. But breaking biche when resources are under considerable strain – and, in fact, effectively depleted by half per day – is unconscionable.

Yet, though he provided some data to support his position, the PM went one step too far by calling for sanctions such as the possibly automatic deduction of pay.

Such a line, in the current situation, seems to take inadequate account of the complexities of work in the covid19 era.

Dr Rowley said one ministry has seen productivity drop by 97.5 per cent. One department staffed with 30 people saw only eight turn up.

But without naming the respective ministry and the department, it is hard to assess the impact of these figures. For example, do all members of a ministry’s staff devoted to communications need to be at the office?

Further, it is unclear whether the figures were analysed to consider workers who may have come under pressure to stay home because of family commitments, workers who utilised standard leave provisions, or workers who may have felt ill, shown symptoms or been exposed.

Of those who stayed home, did none of them do any work? Did attendance correlate with actual work done?

Should we not measure productivity by measures beyond mere attendance?

Not only is it wrong to tar different types of workers with the same brush, it falls ill in the mouth of the PM to defend car tax-breaks for MPs while paying little heed to the extenuating circumstances some workers are under.

We know the propensity of some locals, once given a good thing, to spoil it.

But in setting an adversarial instead of sympathetic tone, Dr Rowley risks triggering industrial action in the middle of a pandemic. That is an unproductive approach.


"Spoiling a good thing"

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