The high esteem in which the local public service has traditionally been held is being eroded by the hiring practices of government.
This is the concern of Public Relations Officer of the Public Workers Union Brian Grimes. In an exclusive interview with the Grenada Informer, Grimes said a few decades ago, to gain employment in the public service, one had to be duly qualified, of high character and have several other positive factors going for him or her. He said the hiring of officers was done through the Public Service Commission and it was done constitutionally.
The PWU PRO, however, laments the practice of successive governments “to satisfy their political agenda, to create avenues to bring people into the public service that are not duly qualified but simply as a form of political favour”.
This he said has degenerated the Public Service. Grimes said right now the system is riddled with many different parallel services. There are workers within the service that don’t even have instruments of appointment and therefore cannot even explain what their positions or duties are even though some of them have been there for 10 to 15 years.
Grimes singled out the maids and cooks at the General Hospital as examples saying they do not even know their statuses and have never had letters of appointment. “This is a fundamental indication that the hiring practice of government within this country has to change and become constitutional.”
The current way of doing things he said is in effect exploiting the workers. “You have people that are working for the same salaries, 10-12 years straight. If you have people working for the same salaries as 12 years ago they are in effect working for less money based on factors of inflation and the rising cost of living”.
The trade unionist questioned how that empowers the regular Grenadian saying a lot of them come into the service, are sold pipe dreams but the people who send them to the positions do not tell them that they are not being given long-term empowerment.
He thinks, as a result, many of them become frustrated saying that within the sector of the maids and cooks many of them are falling ill because of the psychological stress of working all these years and their standard of living keeps dropping.
Grimes said the PWU is calling on the Government of Grenada to regularize those public officers at the lower end of the scale that is working under those conditions and to further empower them.
He stressed, “The duty of a government is not simply to stay in power but also to empower the people of the country. Thus far we think they have been failing.
In addition to the un-regularized status of lower-level workers, there are a number of senior positions that are contracted such as permanent secretaries rather than being filled by persons who came up through the system, as has traditionally been the case.
In addition, there are departments where several persons just showed up saying the minister sent them and in some cases are warning more than the long-term and duly appointed workers.
Grimes complained, “The public service is in disarray and is a direct by-product of the poor hiring practices of the government.
Another negative by-product he said is the poor customer service with the public sector that people always complain about. He added if the objective is just to grant people favours without evaluating their character, their skill set and suitability for the job it will reflect in the service delivery to the public and issues like confidentiality.
“This is not an indictment against the Imani programme because many established public officers came through that system but this government and others have been irresponsible in terms of their hiring practices and this should be reviewed for the general health of the Public Service.