Public Sector Reforms: 5. How the Decisions are Made
Edited extracts from my Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript.
Croz: When these decisions are made, how are they made? Is it around the table?
Well, we still do a proper process of horizontal coordination and consultation for decisions. There is a policy for a provision prepared. We will take that and a number of ministries are involved like for housing there is Lands Department, there is PSC, there is public works. So we consult and prepare a paper and present to Cabinet.
Croz: How are talks with the Unions?
Parmesh Chand: We're not consulting them at the moment because the issue is that they are not coming in good faith. Everything they come in, they adopt an extreme position. We would rather consult the employees directly or be mindful of what the implications are for the employees, rather than engaging with the Unions who more times than not try to block everything we do.
Like the other day, we wanted to charge a fee for deducting union subscriptions, like unions want, from the employees pay roll, a deduction at source. We have been doing this at $15 a month regardless of what the holding is
We went to unions and said: Look, we want a change in this. If the union dues are $100,000 a year we want 5%. That’s the figure we plucked up from the air. They said we are not prepared to give anything more than 0 % at the moment, so they are still paying $15. We could see were the logic was coming from.
Especially we spent quite a bit of money on inputting the data and if there is an era we have to go back and correct that error it takes a lot of time and money and people keep coming and saying oh don’t union bill and all sorts of instructions.
Croz: Why is the union acting like this?
Parmesh Chand: I think they have to change their mindset to come and be a party to the reforms because the reforms are meaning good things like employee participation if I involve the unions they will say no no no redundancies we don’t want this and they are not prepared to talk about the second best option.
Croz: With redundancy focussing on retraining people in new areas such as setting up their own company, you'd think the unions would be more co-operarative?
Parmesh Chand: Yes, they have to now adjust themselves to marketing their services more for this kind of things but rather than a straight cut union due deduction they have to play a more advisory role and be actively involved in reshaping the future of employment in the public service.
Case study : Singapore’s Trade Unions have a different relationship compared to western partners. So these are some of the reforms it’s not all about slashing the numbers of employees in the civil service and getting this much savings it’s all about turning around the civil service firstly you would need to have the right type of civil service and secondly to see what are the competencies of civil service and where we should be involved and thirdly to get more consistent resources.