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Friday, March 15, 2013


“For the past twelve years, public servants have earned a mammoth 28% increase in salaries. Compare that to the workers in the private sector where the wealth is created. Contrary to Mother Mary's view that it is the public service that keeps the economy going, it is the private sector that creates wealth; but it is the public servants who waste it. They are prepared to go to any length, by any means necessary – even beyond the bounds of patriotism – to squeeze blood out of stone from the country for more personal gain, despite warnings from all quarters to behave themselves.”  - THE CHOISEUL POWERHOUSE.

In this article, the CHOISEUL POWERHOUSE looks at the impending strike action by the Civil Servants and argues that, although it may appear stupid and ill-advised, it may be a "good strike happening at the right time". The article ends with a few suggestions on how to possibly manage the disruption to minimise harmful consequences to our country and our economy!


Who would have thought that "intellectual elites of the land" would have displayed so much clueless-ness, so much thoughtlessness in a situation which requires just a modicum of tact and native common sense? Who would have thought that the Civil Service would subscribe to so much "intellectual voodoo", hiding behind 'mysteries' to make their point? They first hid behind a 'mystery illness' and now they're hiding behind a mystery 'third eye' in the civil service who they claim informed them that gov't can pay 9.5%. Why don't they come out from their mysterious voodoo hiding position and put their case forward in a clear, scientific way so that everyone can understand them.

Who would have thought that the pursuit of materialism could have wreaked so much havoc among 'intellectuals' who work the levers of the nation's fiscal machinery to the point where their own sense of rationality and by extension their sense of patriotism have been seriously compromised? Who would have thought that the man on the street with no university education would have led the national struggle to prevent our country from being pushed over a fiscal precipice?

The whole episode reminds me of the "Red Flag" solidarity song: "Let's raise the scarlet standard high; beneath its shade, we'll live and die; though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the red flag flying high". That must be the song now being sang by the man on the street in his pursuit to defend his nation against the overwhelming greed of a few "mercenaries" who seemed desirous of taking our Fair Helen to the brink of economic collapse. Nothing could be more heroic, more historic, more patriotic than that single gesture.

Kenny’s popularity was obviously on slippery slope, in a state of free fall. He was facing double jeopardy: the fiscal precipice and his own political precipice. Even his own Labour base seemed to be in a state of mutiny against him; but apparently, the public servants have reversed that trend. They've raised Kenny from the dead; and now the country as a whole is beginning to see clear “signs of greatness” in Kenny for risking his own political survival in the pursuit of salvation for country and economy.

The former PM King did the reverse; when the country could ill-afford, he awarded a hefty double-digit wage increase to the public servants – an increase which we continue to pay for through our nose by massive borrowing, plunging us month by month deeper into the economic precipice.

For the past twelve years, public servants have earned a mammoth 28% increase in salaries. Compare that to the workers in the private sector where the wealth is created. Contrary to Mother Mary's view that it is the public service that keeps the economy going, it is the private sector that creates wealth; but it is the public servants who waste it. They are prepared to go to any length, by any means necessary – even beyond the bounds of patriotism – to squeeze blood out of stone from the country for more personal gain, despite warnings from all quarters to behave themselves. They persist with their acquisitive instincts even in the face of a potential 43% country poverty index, as predicted by the CDB poverty reduction model of 2005/2006. Perhaps, left to them, they would cut out NICE, SMILE, STEP, HOPE, COUDEMAIN ST. LUCIE plus all the subsidies for the poor.

At the rate they are going, given the opportunity, they wouldn’t even mind if gov’t dismantles the NCA, SSDF, JAMES BELGRAVE FUND and all the social agencies designed to bring relief to the poor and the downtrodden just to meet their wage demands. Or even raise taxes (perhaps, increase VAT to 20%, or personal income tax by 10%) on everyone to meet the civil service exorbitant wage bill. It's greed unprecedented.

I’m happy Kenny has put his foot down to stop that level of unprecedented greed. And this is one of reasons why history will rank him as one of our great leaders. He simply can’t allow 2500 persons to hold the entire nation of 176,000 to ransom.

The dilemma facing the CSA reminds me of the fictitious events chronicled in the novel “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, where foolish boys in trying to "build" a civilization only ended with disastrous results because of their destructive human tendencies.

Mother Mary can be cast into the “allegorical roles” of both Ralph and Jack. She first acted like Ralph, exemplifying good intentions in the implementation of reason, but she ultimately fails to execute these plans soundly; so she then metamorphosed into Jack, eventually degenerating into the “beast”. She commits error after error, thinking she can correct those errors with explanations; but in the final analysis those explanations only over-emphasised her errors.

One of Mother Mary’s errors is the leveling of unfounded accusations of corruption against her “opponent” as a justification for a wage increase for civil servants. I cannot say that I know Kenny very well. But there’s one thing I know about him very well: he abhors corruption, does not tolerate it and will not tolerate anyone to suggest that he is corrupt!

This week, Mother Mary put herself on a collision course with the PM when she foolishly “affirmed the consequent” by juxtaposing him with corruption; but as quickly as those suggestions were made, she “denied the antecedent” when the PM promptly challenged her to submit any evidence thereof to the Integrity Commission; she went quickly on the defensive with an awkward denial. That may well be the beginning of things to come and I can only wish her well! Meanwhile, I can only advise her to proceed with extreme caution and focus more on the real issue as opposed to dabbling on the extraneous. She needs to clear her head and set her brain thinking before she puts her mouth in gear! Yesterday’s presence on 90 minutes only exacerbated her own case.

Almost unanimous in the court of public opinion, the CSA is the unenviable position of being painted as "Greedy Joes". In fact, it is more than just the general public that is against them: the press, the private sector, parents are all pitted against them. Even their counterparts within their own TUF have moved on. It is unfathomable that, in those circumstances, that the CSA still stubbornly continues to agitate for 9.5% increase, even when it has not stated its case with clarity and particularity, backed up with solid statistical, scientific evidence.

Apparently, the CSA is expecting to win its case in the "court" of emotional pressure, nebulous claims, extraneous fabrications and ghost arguments about corruption, the tone of the prime Minister’s address to the nation, proliferation of consultancy contracts etc. It probably has no other option for - at the moment - the CSA case is unbelievable and nobody believes in it. I don’t even think that they themselves believe in it, for it does not contain any logical reasoning or matter-of-fact evidence that has "stood up" to the case of the PM.

It's time that they clearly put their card on the table in “A-B-C-D” or “1-2-3” terms that are clear and compelling!

One of shaky pillars in Mother Mary’s argument is the extreme claim that there are public servants earning $950/month. In that regard, her union would do well by stealing a page from Leo Clarke, Gilroy Satney and Julian Delauney when they headed the teachers union. They 'masterminded' a reclassification system which not only resolved all the anomalies in salary differentials among teachers (from the lowest to the highest), but which also normalized the vast differences in salaries between teachers and the rest of the public service. That's why there is now parity in the public service wage/salary structure. The CSA should spend time doing a thorough technical assessment and proposals in that regard for submission to the PM/GNT for consideration during negotiations. But I suspect that's not where Mother Mary wants to go.

In my view and given the considerations above, I believe it would be stupid to go on strike at this time. But if the civil servants have voted to embark on that path of irrationality, then it is their right!

Meanwhile, any strike action should provide gov’t with options to open the door to meaningful reform within the civil service! But in the meantime, gov’t should formulate a short term action plan to cushion the impact of the strike. Gov't should in the first instance identify the critical public services necessary to maintain revenue streams and to provide basic services to citizens and to private sector interest. Secondly, it should assign civil servants who have dedicated themselves to cause of country to man those critical posts. Gov’t should also consider recruiting volunteers or retirees with necessary expertise to assist in that regard and perhaps even consider temporarily transferring a skeleton of teachers, policemen, fire officers or even workers from statutory bodies to help maintain the life blood of the economy.

Of course, there would be compromises in the delivery of service which might be significantly slower and I believe, our partners will understand this.

The strike may well be a blessing in disguise and it does provide gov't with an opportunity to recruit many talented, unemployed young people into the civil service. They have fresh minds and they learn fast and I'm sure they will make a difference and an impact.

In that sense, the strike may not only open our eyes; it may also provide us with a real platform to restructure, revitalize and rejuvenate the public service.

Meanwhile, gov't should hasten to mobilize for arbitration and to restore industrial peace to the country; and leave the rest to the security forces.

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